Auditorium filled with attendees and panelists seated on stage


Automated Tool Gives Judges Quick, Comprehensive Data for Making Pretrial Release Decisions for Jailed Individuals Awaiting Trial

Alameda court’s program is just one example of how courts use technology to improve efficiency and services.
May 17, 2023

Court pretrial programs provide judges with the necessary information to decide whether to release individuals booked into jail but still awaiting trial. These programs aim to protect the public, ensure defendants will appear for court proceedings, and establish appropriate monitoring conditions if defendants are released.

With help from state budget funding dedicated to establishing and improving court pretrial programs, the Superior Court of Alameda County created an automated system that collects data from multiple sources to populate the risk assessment and pretrial report. The result is a more comprehensive report that considers criminal history, convictions, and failures to appear without requiring manual data entry or personal interviews. 

The system enables the court to immediately produce the pretrial reports when an individual is booked on new charges or an arrest warrant. Individuals eligible for pre-arraignment release can have their case reviewed by a judicial officer within 12 hours of booking and be released from custody within 24 hours if a release order is issued. The online tools also give judicial officers 24/7 access to pretrial release requests, including weekends.

Presenters on stage with large screen behind them
The Superior Court of Alameda County provided an overview of its pretrial program to attendees at the statewide technology summit in Sacramento.

“The online system allows qualifying individuals to be released pre-arraignment, reduces the amount of time they are in custody, and supports judicial officers in making data-driven release decisions,” said Alameda County Judge Tara Desautels.

Statewide Technology Summit Showcases Solutions to Court Challenges
A recent statewide court technology summit hosted by the Judicial Council included recognition of the Alameda court’s automated pretrial program. The Apr. 26 summit gathered more than 250 California court leaders and staff focused on how the judicial branch can use technology to improve operations and services for court users.

In addition to recognizing Alameda’s pretrial program, the summit featured sessions and exhibits on information security, remote interpretation resources, voice-to-text translation, hybrid (in-person/remote) courtrooms, online trial-by-declaration programs, and other online tools and services.

​​​​Attendees at the statewide court technology summit talk in a hallway outside the main auditorium
Summit attendees from the council and more than 40 courts around the state had the opportunity to share ideas and solutions for improving court operations through technology.

"The summit was a valuable way to bring the court technology community together to share ideas and learn from each other," said Kyle Brodie, chair of the council's Technology Committee. "That really is one of the big secrets to our success as a judicial branch."

Statewide Strategic Plan for Technology
Earlier this year, the Judicial Council approved an update to the judicial branch’s Strategic Plan for Technology. The plan outlines how the branch can adapt and use technology to improve court operations and provide better service to litigants, attorneys, justice partners, and the public.

The updated plan also includes a new goal of promoting digital court services that are accessible to all, regardless of location, socioeconomic status, language, physical ability, or technological access or experience.