Pretrial Detention

I mentioned the other day that certain individuals had been arrested in Denver for allegedly making false statements to investigators.  According to Agence France-Presse, two of the men have been ordered to be detained pending further review, while a third has been released on bond.

Pretrial detention hearings are a crucial part of the federal criminal process, occurring at the time of the individual’s initial appearance.  During the hearing, the magistrate judge makes a determination of two things: whether the individual is a flight risk, and whether the individual poses a danger to the community.  See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(b) (“The judicial officer shall order the pretrial release of the person … unless the judicial officer determines that such release will not reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required or will endanger the safety of any other person or the community.”)

In making this determination, the magistrate judge has certain statutory considerations he must take into account, including the nature and circumstances surrounding the charge, specifically, “whether the offense is a crime of violence, a Federal crime of terrorism, or involves a minor victim or a controlled substance, firearm, explosive, or destructive device.”  Id. § 3142(g)(1).  And here’s where things get a little sticky, because as far as I’ve seen, the only charges levied at this point are false statements, albeit false statements involving terrorism.  So, facially, one wonders whether false statements involving terrorism is a “Federal crime of terrorism.”  It may become a moot point, as it appears from most news accounts that the individuals were arrested on a criminal complaint in the anticipation that an indictment would issue shortly, which indictment might even get superseded with even more charges.

It also is important to note that the standard Rules of Evidence that apply to trials do not apply to detention hearings.  Magistrate judges may hear hearsay evidence, and can hear evidence about activities which don’t necessarily apply to the specific charges.