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Pretrial Services Unit

Pretrial Services is the period after an individual (hereinafter referred to as a “defendant”) has been arrested or criminally charged with a federal offense, and prior to a criminal conviction.  U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Officers (“probation officers”) deliver services that benefit to judicial officers (“court”), the community, and the defendant. Their responsibilities require them to work with U.S. District Court and Magistrate Judges, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, defense attorneys, state and local law enforcement agents, counseling and treatment providers, and other community services.

Pretrial Investigation

Probation officers gather defendant information through various interviews and record inquiries. They compile the information into a confidential report that is made available to the court, the prosecutor (Assistant U.S. Attorney), and defense counsel. At the defendant’s hearing, the court will decide whether to grant pretrial release or order the defendant to remain in custody. The court utilizes the Pretrial Services report to assist in making a release or detention decision.

The probation officer does not discuss the alleged offense or the defendant's guilt or innocence. The probation officer also does not give legal advice to the defendant or recommend an attorney. There remains a legal presumption of release on the least restrictive terms and conditions, unless the court determines that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant in court and the safety of any other person and the community.

Pretrial Supervision

Pretrial Services supervision commences when the defendant is ordered released from custody. The court typically issues an appearance bond and accompanying release order that may contain a combination of conditions or restrictions for which the defendant is required to adhere. A probation officer supervises the defendant in accordance with the court order, to ensure the conditions of release are enforced and the defendant appears at subsequent hearings.

Additionally, probation officers assist defendants released in securing any necessary employment, medical, legal, or social services. Throughout the pendency of the federal case, probation officers provide the court with supervision updates.

Pretrial supervision is aimed to protect the public by reducing the risk that persons under supervision will commit future crimes and provide a cost-saving alternative to imprisonment.  The probation officers’ supervision responsibilities are to: 1) monitor defendants’ compliance with their release conditions; 2) manage risk; 3) provide necessary services as ordered by the court; and 4) inform the court and U.S. Attorney’s Office if the defendant violates the release conditions.

Release Conditions

Release conditions established by the court may include reporting to the probation officer as directed, drug and/or alcohol testing, no dangerous weapons, residential restrictions, surrendering a passport or any travel document, placement on location monitoring (i.e., an ankle bracelet), no contact with alleged coconspirators or victims, or any combination of other conditions as deemed appropriate by the court to mitigate risk factors. Release conditions are tailored to the individual defendant, but always include the standard condition requiring the defendant to not commit a federal, state, or local (including tribal) crime during the period of release.

When the probation officer receives a case for pretrial supervision, the probation officer reviews the information about the defendant, assessing any potential risk factors the defendant presents, and any supervision issues or obstacles that may affect the defendant's ability to comply with the release conditions. The probation officer selects appropriate supervision strategies and develops a supervision plan, which the probation officer modifies if the defendant's circumstances change.

Among the probation officer’s supervision duties are monitoring the defendant through personal contacts and telephone calls with the defendant and collateral contacts, including family members, employers, and treatment providers; meeting with the defendant in the probation officer’s office or courthouse, the defendant's home, or the defendant’s place of employment; helping the defendant obtain employment; and assisting the defendant with medical, legal, or social services.

Probation officers supervise defendants released to the community until they are sentenced to a term of imprisonment or to probation, the charges are dismissed, the defendant is acquitted, or their pretrial supervision is revoked by the court.

If found guilty by trial or a guilty plea is entered, probation officers will typically continue supervising the defendant pending sentencing. During this time, another probation officer may become involved with the defendant to begin what is referred to as the presentence investigation process.

The U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office is committed to strengthening support systems and are devoted to putting people in positions to succeed. The goal is for pretrial supervision success throughout the pendency of the defendant’s federal case.

In the event of supervision noncompliance with release conditions, the probation officer notifies the court and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Depending on the circumstances/situation, the probation officer may recommend the court issue an arrest warrant or summons to a appear in court, conduct a hearing to decide whether modification to the release conditions is warranted, or recommend revocation of the defendant’s release pending further proceedings.

Frequently Asked Questions: Court Proceedings

What is an Initial Appearance?

The initial appearance is in most cases the defendant’s first contact with the court and usually is the point where pretrial release or detention is addressed. An initial appearance will occur in one of the following situations:

  • an arrest on a warrant issued on a criminal complaint
  • an appearance pursuant to an issued summons to appear in lieu of an arrest warrant
  • an arrest on a warrant issued following the return of a criminal Indictment of a Grand Jury or an Information filed by the prosecutor
  • an appearance on a citation or a violation notice in a misdemeanor offense
  • an appearance in response to an informal agreement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and defense counsel

The defendant will have the opportunity for the charges to read and will be given a copy of the criminal charges filed during the initial appearance. The defendant’s financial resources will be evaluated by the court, and the court will determine if there is a need for an appointed defense attorney.

What is a Detention Hearing?

A pretrial detention hearing is much like a bail hearing which occurs in the state court system. It is a criminal hearing in which the court determines whether to release the defendant on a condition or combination of conditions, or orders the defendant detained pending further proceedings. If ordered detained, the court typically makes a finding that there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant and/or no condition or combination of conditions exist to reasonably ensure the safety of any other person and the community.

What is an Arraignment?

Arraignment hearings involving the reading of the charges (e.g., an Indictment) to the defendant. The defendant formally enters a plea to the charge(s) at that time. If a not guilty plea is entered, a trial date, among other scheduled criminal hearings and deadlines, are set.

What is a Presentence Report?

The court will often order a presentence investigation and report following a verdict of guilty at trial or upon entry of a guilty plea. While the probation office compiles this report, defendants often continue to report to, and be supervised by, the Pretrial Services department. Generally, all previously ordered conditions of release remain in effect. The defendant’s adjustment to pretrial supervision is detailed in the presentence report.

What is an Appointed Attorney?

All defendants have the right to an attorney’s representation in their defense. If the judge finds that the defendant is unable to afford an attorney, an order will be entered appointing an attorney. Defendants are not required to remit payment to an appointed attorney.

What is Voluntary Surrender or Self-Surrender?

If a defendant is not remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service at the time of sentencing, a voluntary surrender period (also referred to as self-surrender) may be afforded to the defendant by the Court, allowing the defendant to surrender to his/her designated institution. In such situations, a defendant generally remains under Pretrial Services supervision until he/she reports to the designated Bureau of Prisons facility or to the closest U.S. Marshals Service location to the defendant's residence. Defendants under pretrial supervision are notified by their probation officer of the voluntary surrender details, which usually is known within 14 business following the sentencing hearing.

What happens to my surrendered passport?

The U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office will retain custody of your passport until the disposition of charge(s) and then dispose per guidance as stated below.

Not Convicted: The U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office must have Court permission to return your passport. In the event it is not returned to you directly, your passport will be returned to the United States Department of State, Washington, D.C. (if a United States passport) or to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Detention and Removal Operations Office in Bloomington, Minnesota (if a foreign passport). The address and contact information for both the United States Department of State and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Detention and Removal Operations Office can be found below.


United States Passport: Absent specific directives from the Court, your passport will be returned to the United States Department of State, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of State
44132 Mercure Circle
P.O. Box 1243
Sterling, VA 20166-1243
Phone: (202) 485-6400

Foreign Passport: Absent specific directives from the Court, your passport will be returned to the regional office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Detention and Removal Operations.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Detention and Removal Operations
1 Federal Drive
Fort Snelling, MN 55111
Phone: 612-843-8600

For more specific questions concerning your passport and its location, please contact the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services Office at 612-554-5400 and ask to speak to your assigned probation officer or to the duty officer.

Can I Vote?

Eligible voters may legally vote in every state. Absentee voting applications are available on the Minnesota Secretary of State website. Additional Voting Rights information can be found on this website under the Client Resources option.

  • Can I vote if I am in jail but am not currently serving a felony sentence? Yes.
  • Can I vote if I am charged with a felony but have not been convicted? Yes.
  • Can I vote if I have been given a stay of adjudication? Yes.
  • Can I vote if I was charged with or convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense? Yes.

Your criminal record does not affect your right to vote in Minnesota unless you are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction. Please confer with your legal counsel with questions.

Read more about Pretrial Services Officers in the judiciary.