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Many states like New Jersey, New York, and Illinois have recently moved to increase their use of nonmonetary forms of pretrial release.

These changes in pretrial practice raise challenging questions, including how to best ensure that as many people show up for their court dates as possible.

A review on the research of the efficacy of different court date notification procedures reveals that one of the more promising strategies might also be one of the simplest: sending reminders. Court date notifications have been found to be a cost effective and efficient way of increasing court appearance, while opening an opportunity to pursue the mission of procedural justice.

Studies show that the primary reasons people miss their court appearance are forgetfulness and logistical hurdles. Failing to appear can result in a minor infraction turning into a more serious issue.

“Each year millions of Americans charged with low level offenses are required to appear for court, many of whom will be arrested on a warrant for failing to appear”, says Joanna Thomas, Junior Research Analyst at The New York City Criminal Justice Agency (CJA). “Warrants result in further violations, infractions, and fines for recipients, all of which have serious ramifications on the outcome of any pending or future cases.”

Failing to appear for court not only costs the court time and resources. It can also have a deeply negative impact on an individual’s employment and criminal history. It is for these reasons that promoting court appearance should be a priority for every court. In a new brief, CJA presents research on how court date notifications are one of the best options for promoting court appearance and describes best practices for building effective notification systems.

To help counties achieve that aim, this brief includes step by step guidance to administering court date notifications, as well as script templates.

Court date notifications can offer a subtler, more individualized, and person-centered approach that can help ensure that individuals released without monetary conditions make all their court dates. Improving these efforts is a critical part of any jurisdiction’s toolkit that is seeking to move away from monetary conditions of release.

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