VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) Counties across Indiana are preparing for a change in their court systems. Criminal Rule 26 will allow some residents the opportunity to wait for their upcoming trial at home rather than sit in jail.

Some people facing criminal charges wait for their trial date outside of court if they have bail money.  

Now instead of setting money bail amounts judges could use a risk assessment method to decide whether defendants should be held in jail or more likely, simply be allowed to go home on the promise they would return for their next court date.

The risk assessment would apply to trial court judges in their criminal cases to improve pre-trial practices using evidence-based and risk assessments.

Factors that judges would take into account while using the new assessment would include criminal and drug history, education, how long you’ve lived in the community.

“We use these kinds of formulas every day,” Vigo County Judge John Roach said. “Insurance’s companies use those kinds of assessments every day so it’s not new it’s foreign. It’s just the same application to that pre-trial decision.”

” And Criminal Rule 26 doesn’t require release it requires courts to engage in this risk assessment in determining release,” Vigo County Judge Sarah Mullican said.

Vigo County has been working for more than a year to get ready for the start date on January 1, 2020.  

The new rule was enacted by the Indiana supreme court back in 2016. Since then 11 pilot counties have been testing the rule but soon all 92 counties will be using criminal rule 26.

So far pilot counties have found success in the new rule. The pilot counties are Allen, Bartholomew, Grant, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jefferson, Monroe, Porter, St. Joseph, Starke, and Tipton.

“For example Monroe County in some of their data collection has determined that they are hitting anywhere from 80 to 90 percent success in their release decisions and what that means is 80 to 90 percent of the people they are letting out are not committing new crimes, and they are showing up for court,” Roach said.

With low-risk inmates who have been accused but not convicted of a crime out of jails before their trails, this could lead to less overcrowding.

However, judges warn that the number will not be extensive.

”All of those tools that you use you are going to cut back on the number of people coming back,” Roach said. ”You’re going to start to see the number come down. That’s the goal.”

Part of the process of getting ready is setting up a new electronic system. Defendants will be asked to give their email and cell numbers, so they can receive notifications before their hearing or court date.

The county has also applied for funding to increase pre-trial and probation officers as well as more public defenders. The Vigo County courts hope to transition to the new system by October 1st. All Indiana courts must be a transition over before the new law goes into effect January 1st of 2020.

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(This story was originally published on June 19, 2019)