Hartford Community Court
view, the defendant goes to the State’s Attorney for a discussion of the plea before coming to the courtroom.14
The Bail Commission’s staff person provides the Court with information from three sources: the pre-arraignment interview; a criminal history (including National Criminal Investigation Center and State Police Bail information, and information on outstanding warrants and pending cases); and the police incident report.15 For non- custodial arrest cases, this criminal history information is normally checked the day before an individual is scheduled to appear. For ordinance violations, record checks based on identifying information such as name and birth date are always performed on the day of their appearance because summonsed individuals are not fingerprinted.16
In addition to the pre-arraignment screening interview conducted by the Bail Commission, all defendants who come through the Community Court are assessed by social service staff for underlying problems.
Sanctioning Procedure Sanctioning at the Court is contingent on the defendant accepting the community service and/or social service mandates of his plea agree- ment. Based on information provided by the Bail Commission staff (and sometimes the Court’s human services assessment), the Judge offers a plea with specified condi- tions. Charges against the defendant are dismissed (and his record expunged in 30 days) if he complies with the conditions of his plea.
If the defendant rejects the plea offer, his case is usually scheduled for further appearances at the Community Court.17 Court planners anticipated that the majority of defendants would accept a conditional plea. Project planners reported that in the first month of the Community Court’s operation almost all defendants did accept their sanction. (Types of sanctions are discussed below in Case Outcomes.)
The Public Defender’s Role All of those who come through the Community Court are eligible for public defender representation. Although public defenders are avail- able during initial Court operations, very few defendants requested representation.
14 Before the creation of the Community Court, the Bail Commission interview was administered main- ly to those who were arrested custodially. Because of the Community Court's focus on summonsed cases, "business as usual" has changed for Bail Commission staff.
15 For "bailable" offenses, this information includes a weighted release criteria form. For summons cases, there are no fingerprints taken. However, record checks of summonsed individuals are performed when they appear at Court. During the Court's early operations, this method resulted in taking into cus- tody several individuals who had open warrants.
16 The Judge reports that while this system is not failsafe, in several cases it has successfully detected outstanding warrants for serious offenses among individuals who were brought in on ordinance violation charges.
17 For this reason, the concern about "forum shopping" — continuing a case in the hopes of receiving a more lenient case outcome at the Superior Court — is minimal.