What is Pretrial Justice?

Pretrial is the part of the criminal justice system that begins when a person comes into contact with law enforcement (or the police) and ends when any resulting charges are resolved—usually through a dismissal, a plea, or a trial.

It is often referred to as the “front door” of the criminal justice system.

A just pretrial system has three basic obligations.

  1. It must keep the public safe.
  2. It must also ensure that individuals accused of crime appear in court as needed.
  3. And, according to the U.S. Constitution, it must respect the presumption of innocence and not unfairly interfere with the freedom of people who have not been found guilty.

The Pretrial Justice Institute’s website provides extensive information about common pretrial justice challenges, commonsense solutions, and what you can do to ensure the system where you live produces just outcomes that serve all people.

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As U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist famously wrote,

"...in our society liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.”