Pretrial Policy: State Laws
State legislatures consider and enact laws that address all aspects of pretrial policy, including release eligibility, conditions of release, bail, commercial bail bonding and pretrial diversion. These legislative policies have an important role in providing fair, efficient and safe pretrial practices carried out by law enforcement and the courts.
Pretrial Policies: 50 State Charts
Pretrial Release and the Right to Counsel
Every state constitution guarantees the right to counsel for a person charged with a criminal offense. State laws provide framework for courts that carry out the task of ensuring that defendants are aware of their right to counsel and that counsel is appointed in a reasonable amount of time. A summary and chart provide for information on these laws.
Citation in Lieu of Arrest
A citation in lieu of arrest is permitted in most states for certain low-level crimes. A citation is a written order, in lieu of a warrantless arrest, that is issued by a law enforcement officer or other authorized official, requiring a person to appear in a designated court or governmental office at a specified time and date. A summary and chart provide more information on state laws.
Pretrial Release Eligibility
Nearly every state has a presumption in favor of releasing all but a specified few defendants prior to trial. While state laws broadly provide for presumption of release, they also define who is and is not eligible for pretrial release, and under what conditions. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Guidance for Setting Release Conditions
Many defendants charged with crimes may be released prior to trial, and courts decide whether or not to impose conditions on the release. About half of states have adopted laws that provide additional guidance to courts when setting conditions of pretrial release. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Pretrial Release Conditions
State law provides a framework for judges when setting conditions of pretrial release. In general, conditions imposed must be related to assuring the appearance of the accused and ensuring safety of victims, witnesses and the public. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Pretrial detention is limited to those charged with the most serious crimes and other specified circumstances such as violating conditions of, or committing a new crime while on pretrial release. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Bail Bond Agent Licensure
A professional bail agent is a surety who guarantees a defendant’s appearance in court for financial gain. To participate as a bail agent in the commercial bail industry, state law often provides licensure requirements. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Bail Bond Agent Business Practices
To conduct business, bail agents advertise their services, meet with their clients and interact with public officials. For each of these activities, state law provides guidelines that bail agents must comply with in their operation. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Pretrial Release Violations & Bail Forfeiture
Violating pretrial release--whether by nonappearance or a conditions violation--may result in bail forfeiture, a separate criminal offense, revocation of bail, or other sanctions. Use the interactive maps on this page to learn which states allow bail forfeiture for a conditions violation, criminalize a defendant’s failure to appear, impose strict liability for bail jumping crimes, and more.
A recovery agent or “bounty hunter” is a person who is lawfully authorized to apprehend bail fugitives and surrender them to the court. State law provides licensure requirements and other guidelines for bail recovery agents. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Victims' Rights and Protections
Laws in each state provide rights for and services to victims. Most states have laws that specifically address victim interests related to pretrial release. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Diversion programs address factors that contribute to criminal behavior of the accused, called criminogenic needs. A summary and chart provide more information on the laws.
Additional NCSL Resources