What is Harris County Pretrial Services?
Pretrial Services is a Harris County department that receives budgetary support and approval from the Harris County Commissioners Court. While administrative authority for the department resides statutorily with the Commissioners Court, a committee comprising judges from the Criminal District Courts and the County Criminal Courts at Law provides guidance regarding the department's operational objectives. Management Services coordinates the department's efforts to serve the courts, the County, and the community.
What does Pretrial Services do?
The department has two primary functions. The first is to investigate and compile information on people who are charged by Harris County with a felony or class A or B misdemeanor offense. Staff then synthesize collected information into a report. The report assists the judiciary with release and detention decisions, especially those related to eligibility for release on personal bond. If the court releases the defendant on personal bond or orders conditions of release, regardless of the release method, staff monitor and enforce defendant compliance and report non-compliance to the court. The department structures all activities to address the purposes of bail: to assure appearance in court and minimize danger to the community.
What is a personal bond?
Chapters 17.01 and 17.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure define a personal bond as a form of bail that does not require the defendant to post security. The defendant takes an oath to appear in court, and no money is required for his or her release. However, the court may assess service-related fees payable to the county after release. In Texas, a defendant released on a personal bond is fully liable for the amount of the bond in the event he or she fails to appear for a scheduled court appearance.
What determines eligibility for a personal bond?
A judge looks at many factors to make this determination. The judge may consider a person's stability in the community, the seriousness of the charge, and any potential danger to public safety presented by the defendant.
Who uses the information prepared by Pretrial Services?
The District and County criminal courts of Harris County, the District Attorney's Office, defense attorneys, and other governmental, law enforcement, and criminal justice agencies use the department's information.
Can the general public contact Pretrial Services?
. Department personnel talk to family members and friends of defendants to collect information regarding a defendant's eligibility for release. During this process, the reference will be told when the defendant will appear in court. The department also will incorporate in its report information received from complaining witnesses. The department will notify interested parties about upcoming court dates for defendants under its supervision.