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Pre-Arraignment Representation and Review (PARR) in Santa Clara County

People who are arrested have a constitutionally guaranteed right to a lawyer, but in many jurisdictions public counsel is not made available until arraignment, which may leave vulnerable individuals in custody for long periods before meeting with a lawyer.


There is mounting evidence that pretrial detention has many adverse impacts on one’s job, family life, and other outcomes, yet the majority of individuals in California’s jails are in custody pending trial. Santa Clara County’s Public Defender’s Office, with support from the County Board of Supervisors, designed a pilot program to provide eligible individuals with public defense prior to their criminal arraignment, the point at which counsel is typically made available. This pilot was inspired by CPL’s analysis of a similar pilot in San Francisco which found that providing people with counsel before their arraignment led to an increase in the likelihood of an individual’s release from custody at arraignment.

Research Project

Status: ongoing

CPL will evaluate the effects of PARR by taking advantage of quasi-random variation in the weekly schedule for offering pre-arraignment representation during the PARR pilot period. CPL will measure the impact of the offer of pre-arraignment representation on outcomes including pre-arraignment release from custody and charge filing decisions.

Research Team

Professor Steve Raphael (Co-Principal Investigator), Dr. Johanna Lacoe (Co-Principal Investigator), Dr. Brett Fischer


Policy Brief: Providing Early Legal Counsel Reduces Jail Time and Improves Case Outcomes (June 2023)

NBER working paper: The Effect of Pre-Arraignment Legal Representation on Criminal Case Outcomes (May 2023)

Webinar: Research findings on the Santa Clara County PARR Program

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