Criminal Law

What Does 'Released on Own Recognizance' Mean?

Key Takeaways:

  • Being released on your own recognizance means you’re allowed to leave jail before your trial without having to pay bail.
  • This option is usually granted if you’re considered low-risk for fleeing or causing harm.
  • If you fail to appear in court as promised, you could face consequences, including having an arrest warrant issued.

After an arrest, you will likely want to get out of jail as quickly as possible. For felony offenses, the court may hold you in jail until your trial or release you after posting bond. For minor offenses, the court may release you on your own recognizance without posting bail. You still have to appear in court for any upcoming hearings, and failure to show up could mean a warrant for your arrest.

Several factors can affect whether you will be released with or without bail, including the type of criminal charges and your risk of not showing up to court. If you have questions about bail hearings or getting released after an arrest, contact an experienced local criminal defense lawyer for answers.

What Is a Personal Recognizance Bond?

A personal recognizance bond allows a defendant to be released from jail without posting bail or putting up a deposit. Also known as a PR bond, being released on your own recognizance means you promise to appear in court without additional bond conditions. The judge will generally require a signature of a written promise to appear for future court dates.

How Can You Get Out of Jail Without a Bond?

After arrests in most jurisdictions, a defendant will appear before a judge at an arraignment to determine whether they will be released from custody and under what conditions. If a judge believes you are a danger to the community, a flight risk, or a risk to public safety, they may keep you in custody. However, in most cases, defendants will be released on bail or cash bonds.

Most courts follow a bail schedule based on the criminal charges and defendants’ criminal record and criminal history. They then set bail at a court hearing. Pretrial defendants can “make bail” or “post bond” by putting up the money as collateral on a promise that they will return to court. If a defendant or loved one does not have enough money to cover the entire bail amount, they can go to a bail bond company, which will require a fee to cover bail, generally 10% of the bail amount.

For nonviolent offenses like DUI or shoplifting, the judge may offer a PR bond that does not require putting up the money. In these situations, you may be eligible for release from jail without paying cash bail, but you still have to promise to return to court for any upcoming hearings. There are penalties for a failure to appear, and a court could revoke bond if you do not appear in court under your own recognizance. That means you could be stuck in jail until your criminal case is complete.

Can You Get a PR Bond if You Have No Money?

Financial bail requirements often prevent people with limited income from getting out of jail, even if they have not been convicted of any crime. If you do not have enough money to post bond and family members cannot get enough money for a bail bond, you may be able to ask the court for a personal recognizance bond. You can also petition the court for a bond reduction.

In the situation above, your chances of getting a PR bond may increase if you have:

  • Supportive, local family or children
  • Ties to the community
  • A local home or apartment
  • A local job or business

What Happens if You Don’t Show Up For Court?

If you do not appear for future court appearances, the judge may issue a failure to appear order. This could result in a warrant for your arrest. An arrest warrant for failing to appear in court is often referred to as a bench warrant.

The severity of the failure to appear charge depends on the underlying criminal charge you are facing. You can be charged with a misdemeanor if you fail to appear for a misdemeanor offense or a felony failure to appear for a felony charge.

If you have a bench warrant for failure to appear, the next time you have a run-in with law enforcement, they may arrest you. After a failure to appear, the court may be less willing to release you on your own recognizance for any future criminal charges. The court could also require electronic monitoring or other conditions of release.

Pretrial Release With a Criminal Defense Lawyer

While nothing is certain, a criminal defense attorney can help you receive your own recognizance release from jail during your bail hearing. Experienced criminal defense attorneys know the system, and they know the local judges and prosecutors. They are familiar with proven techniques for earning PR bonds for clients, and how to negotiate them.

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