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Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

Appendix 14

State Court Processing Statistics

Survey methodology, definitions of terms, and crimes within offense categories

Note: The following information has been excerpted from U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 1994, NCJ-164616 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1998), pp. 1, 37-39. Non-substantive editorial adaptations have been made.


The third survey of the State Court Processing Statistics (SCPS) program, formerly the National Pretrial Reporting Program, was conducted during May 1994. These data describe the criminal justice process from arrest to case disposition. SCPS tracked a sample of cases designed to represent the Nation's 75 most populous counties (by 1990 estimates). In 1994, the 75 largest counties accounted for about 36% of the Nation's population, 52% of all reported serious violent crimes, and 43% of all reported serious property crimes. Cases were tracked for up to 1 year.

The sample was designed and selected by the U.S. Bureau of the Census under Bureau of Justice Statistics supervision. It is a two-stage stratified sample with 39 of the 75 most populous counties selected at the first stage, and a systematic sample of State court felony filings (defendants) within each county selected at the second stage.

The 39 counties were divided into 4 first-stage strata, based on court filing information obtained through a telephone survey. Twelve counties were included in the sample with certainty because of their large number of court filings. The remaining 27 counties were allocated to the 3 non-certainty strata based on the variance of felony court dispositions.

The second-stage sampling was designed to represent all defendants who had felony cases filed with the court during the month of May 1994. The participating jurisdictions provided data for every defendant who had a felony case filed on selected days during that month. The number of days selected depended on the stage-one stratum in which the county had been placed. Each jurisdiction provided 1, 2, or 4 weeks of filings for May 1994. Data from jurisdictions that were not required to provide a full month of filings were weighted to represent the full month.

Data on 14,691 sample felony cases were collected from the 39 sampled jurisdictions. This sample represented 53,099 weighted cases filed during the month of May 1994 in the 75 most populous counties. About 500 weighted cases that, because of incomplete information, could not be classified into one of the four major crime categories (violent, property, drug, public-order) were omitted from the analysis. Cases that were disposed of too quickly to allow time for a pretrial release decision also were excluded. The data collection was conducted by the Pretrial Services Resource Center in Washington, D.C.

Data were collected from the following counties and independent cities: Alabama (Jefferson); Arizona (Maricopa, Pima); California (Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Ventura); Florida (Broward, Dade, Hillsborough, Orange); Hawaii (Honolulu); Illinois (Cook, DuPage); Kentucky (Jefferson); Maryland (Baltimore city); Massachusetts (Middlesex); Michigan (Wayne); Missouri (Jackson, St. Louis); New Jersey (Essex); New York (Bronx, Erie, Kings, Monroe, New York, Queens, Suffolk); Ohio (Hamilton); Pennsylvania (Allegheny, Philadelphia); Tennessee (Shelby); Texas (Dallas, Harris); Washington (King); and Wisconsin (Milwaukee).

Several jurisdictions did not provide complete reporting for defendants' Hispanic origin. As a result, the overall reporting level for race combined with Hispanic origin was 75% compared to 85% for race alone. Because of this underreporting, the categories of race alone account for more defendants than the categories that include both race and Hispanic origin. A large preponderance of the persons with a Hispanic origin were white, although the category includes all races.

Definitions of terms

Terms relating to pretrial release

Released defendant--Any defendant who was released from custody prior to the disposition of his or her case by the court. Includes defendants who were detained for some period of time before being released and defendants who were returned to custody after being released because of a violation of the conditions of pretrial release.

Detained defendant--Any defendant who remained in custody from the time of arrest until the disposition of his or her case by the court. Detained defendants are also referred to as "not released."

Failure to appear--When a court issues a bench warrant for a defendant's arrest because he or she has missed a scheduled court appearance.

Types of financial release

Full cash bond--The defendant posts the full bail amount in cash with the court. If the defendant makes all court appearances, the cash is returned. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bond is forfeited.

Deposit bond--The defendant deposits a percentage (usually 10%) of the full bail amount with the court. The full amount of the bail is required if the defendant fails to appear in court. The percentage bail is returned after the disposition of the case, but the court often retains a small portion for administrative costs.

Surety bond--A third party, usually a bail bond company, signs a promissory note to the court for the full bail amount and charges the defendant a fee for the service (usually 10% of the full bail amount). If the defendant fails to appear, the bond company must pay the court the full bail amount. Frequently the bond company requires the defendant to post collateral in addition to the fee.

Property bond--Also known as collateral bond, involves an agreement made by a defendant as a condition of pretrial release requiring that property valued at the full bail amount be posted as an assurance of his or her appearance in court. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the property is forfeited.

Types of nonfinancial release

Unsecured bond--The defendant pays no money to the court but is liable for the full amount of bail should he or she fail to appear in court.

Release on recognizance--The court releases the defendant on a signed agreement that he or she will appear in court as required. This category also includes citation releases in which arrestees are released pending their first court appearance on a written order issued by law enforcement or jail personnel.

Conditional release--Defendants are released under conditions and are usually supervised by a pretrial services agency. In some cases, such as those involving a third-party custodian or drug monitoring and treatment, another agency may be involved in the supervision of the defendant. Conditional release sometimes includes an unsecured bond.

Other type of release

Emergency release--Defendants are released solely in response to a court order placing limits on a jail's population.

Offense categories

Felony offenses were classified into 13 categories. These categories were further divided into the four major crime categories of violent, property, drug, and public-order offenses. The following listings contain a representative summary of most of the crimes contained in each category; however, these lists are not meant to be exhaustive. All offenses, except murder, include attempts and conspiracies to commit.

Violent offenses

Murder--Includes homicide, nonnegligent manslaughter, and voluntary homicide. Does not include attempted murder (which is classified as felony assault), negligent homicide, involuntary homicide, or vehicular manslaughter (which are classified as "other violent crime").

Rape--Includes forcible intercourse, sodomy, or penetration with a foreign object. Does not include statutory rape or nonforcible acts with a minor or someone unable to give legal consent, nonviolent sexual offenses, or commercialized sex offenses.

Robbery--Includes the unlawful taking of anything of value by force or threat of force.

Assault--Includes aggravated assault, aggravated battery, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, felony assault or battery on a law enforcement officer, and other felony assaults. Does not include extortion, coercion, or intimidation.

Other violent offenses--Includes vehicular manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, negligent or reckless homicide, nonviolent or nonforcible sexual assault, kidnaping, unlawful imprisonment, child or spouse abuse, cruelty to child, reckless endangerment, hit and run with bodily injury, intimidation, and extortion.

Property offenses

Burglary--Includes any type of entry into a residence, industry, or business with or without the use of force with the intent to commit a felony or theft. Does not include possession of burglary tools, trespassing, or unlawful entry where the intent is not known.

Theft--Includes grand theft, grand larceny, motor vehicle theft, or any other felony theft. Does not include receiving or buying stolen property, fraud, forgery, or deceit.

Other property offenses--Includes receiving or buying stolen property, forgery, fraud, embezzlement, arson, reckless burning, damage to property, criminal mischief, vandalism, bad checks, counterfeiting, criminal trespassing, possession of burglary tools, and unlawful entry.

Drug offenses

Drug sale/trafficking--Includes trafficking, sales, distribution, possession with intent to distribute or sell, manufacturing, and smuggling of controlled substances. Does not include possession of controlled substances.

Other drug offenses--Includes possession of controlled substances, prescription violations, possession of drug paraphernalia, and other drug law violations.

Public-order offenses

Weapons--Includes the unlawful sale, distribution, manufacture, alteration, transportation, possession, or use of a deadly weapon or accessory.

Driving-related--Includes driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving with a suspended or revoked license, or any other felony in the motor vehicle code.

Other public-order offenses--Includes flight/escape, parole or probation violations, prison contraband, habitual offender, obstruction of justice, rioting, libel, slander, treason, perjury, prostitution/pandering, bribery, and tax law violations.

Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics