State legislatures consider and enact laws that address all aspects of pretrial policy, including citations, release eligibility, conditions of release, commercial bail bonding, victims’ rights and diversion. These legislative policies have an important role in providing fair, efficient and safe practices carried out by law enforcement and the courts.
Below is a synopsis of this state’s pretrial release laws as of March 2013 and any relevant legislative reports or audits. Recent enactments modifying these provisions can be found in NCSL’s pretrial enactments database.
Citation in Lieu of Arrest
Issuing a citation is presumptive for 2nd degree misdemeanors, 1st degree driving under the influence and crimes punishable by no more than 90 days imprisonment. Citations can be issued after arrest by law enforcement officers. (R. Cr. P. 519 & 441)
Pretrial Release Eligibility
State constitution and statute provide a presumption of pretrial release. Pretrial release can be denied for capital offenses and offenses punishable by life imprisonment. (Const. art. 1 § 14; 42 Pa. S. C. A. 5701)
Pretrial Release Conditions
Law allows release on personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond. Common conditions of release include: commercial surety, cash deposit, property bond, other secured bond, supervision and additional requirements. Electronic monitoring is authorized for defendants supervised by a pretrial services program. (42 C.S.A. § 5702 authorizes Cr. P. R., Rule 530, Rule 524, Rule 528 & Rule 527)
Bail Bond Agent Licensure
The Insurance Department regulates professional bondsmen. To be licensed, applicants cannot be employed as a law enforcement officer or in a penal institution, or be a person who derives profit from bondsmen. Any criminal offense can cause their license to be denied or revoked. (42 Pa. C. S. A. § 5742)
Bail Bond Agent Business Practices
The premium rate a bail agent can charge is no more than 10 percent on bonds below $100, and 5 percent for each additional $100. They are prohibited from soliciting business in any court or tribunal. Bail agents cannot make arrangements with public officials. (42 Pa. C. S. A. § 5748; 42 Pa. C. S. A. § 5749)
Bail Forfeiture Procedure
After notification of their client’s failure to appear, a bail agent has 20 days to produce the defendant or provide an adequate reason why the defendant did not appear. Statute addresses standards for remission procedure. Unpaid forfeitures can result in the suspension of the agent’s authority to execute new bonds. (Pa. R. Crim. P. Rule 536; 42 Pa. C. S. A. § 5746)
Victims’ Rights and Protections
Victims have the right to notification of pretrial release. (18 P.S. § 11.201(2) & (9))
Diversion programs authorized include: substance abuse programs; and substance abuse and mental health problem-solving courts. (35 P.S. § 780-117; 42 P.S. § 916)
Full text of statutes can be retrieved using NCSL’s State Legislatures Internet Links database or learn more about NCSL’s Criminal Justice Program.