Date of Award

Winter 2000

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Wolfgang Pindur

Committee Member

Mona J. E. Danner

Committee Member

Gail Johnson

Committee Member

Stacey Plichta


This study identified defendant characteristics that are related to pretrial outcome (success or failure pending trial) in Virginia. The study also investigated the potential differences in predictors across community types (Large Urban, Small Urban, Mixed, and Rural). Identification of factors that are predictors of outcome, as well as any differences across community types, can assist judicial officers in making the bail decision. The bail decision, to release or incarcerate a defendant pending trial, is a monumental one. Judicial officers must attempt to fairly and equitably balance the rights and needs of the defendant with those of the public at large. The successful identification of predictors of pretrial outcome, if used by judicial officers, can improve bail decisions and result in an increase to public safety, a reduction in the potential for disparity in bail decisions, the protection of the presumption of innocence, and an improvement in the operation of the criminal justice system.

The Beeley Theory of Pretrial Risk Prediction guided this research. This theory states that individual defendant characteristics including current charge, criminal history, social history, and personal characteristics, are related to pretrial outcome and should be considered in the bail decision-making process. The research also tested the Assumption of Community Differences for the first time. This assumption refers to the belief that the predictors of pretrial outcome are different depending on the community type in which a defendant resides.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services provided the database for this research. The database contained 1,971 valid cases with 1 dependent variable (outcome) and 50 independent variables that were measures of demographics, health, community and general stability, criminal history, and community type. The cases were collected from seven Virginia localities representing the four community types. The data analysis consisted of descriptive, bivariate (Chi-Square and Mann-Whitney U), and multivariate (Binary Logistic Regression) statistics.

The Beeley Theory of Pretrial Risk Prediction and the Assumption of Community Differences were both supported. Sixteen defendant characteristics were related to pretrial outcome. The best predictors of outcome varied across community types. Recommendations for public policy and future research are presented.