U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Electronic Monitoring Systems (EMS) in the Pre-Trial Environment: Constitutionality, Cost-Effectiveness, and Other Factors

NCJ Number
M Gross
Date Published
19 pages
This examination of the use of electronic monitoring systems (EMS) with pretrial detainees in Florida focuses on EMS goals and applications, its cost-effectiveness, and its constitutionality under Florida statutes.
EMS is a technique and mechanism that can verify an offender's location at any given time. Through this technology, local authorities can impose a wide range of restrictions on an offender. Recently, EMS has been used for pretrial management of defendants. Since the wristlet or anklet used in EMS can be broken or torn off, EMS cannot eliminate flight nor ensure appearance at trial. The screening of participants is therefore crucial to its effectiveness. To date, Federal or State appellate courts have received few constitutional challenges to EMS programs; however, most legal scholars believe that the constitutionality of EMS at the postconviction stage is strongly defensible; whereas, it is vulnerable and weak during the pretrial period. This belief is based primarily on the concept of diminished rights. Because pretrial defendants have not been adjudicated, their rights are substantially greater than those of postconviction participants. Before the application of EMS may be considered, the court must first determine whether the defendant has the constitutional right to bail. Only after the right to bail has been determined may the courts consider the imposition of EMS as a condition of bail, unless EMS is accepted voluntarily by the defendant. In addition to helping maintain correctional populations at federally mandated levels, effective pretrial EMS programs must combine ensuring a defendant's appearance at trial, the individual's constitutional right to bail, and the maintenance of public safety. This study concludes that the application of EMS technology to pretrial defendants can be an effective management tool for a judge, as well as a benefit to both the participants and the community.