Jail cell door opening

“Own Recognizance” Explained

If you are taken into custody and charged with a crime, you may be allowed to leave jail on your own recognizance.

This means that you aren’t required to pay bail because the judge or another representative in your case believes that you will return to stand trial. What are some factors that determine whether or not you will be required to post bail prior to your release from jail?

What Type of Crime Did You Commit?

Generally, you will only be allowed to leave on your own recognizance if the crime you committed was a minor one. For instance, if you are accused of shoplifting or another misdemeanor, you may be deemed less of a risk to society while you are out. However, it is possible that the court will impose certain conditions while the legal process plays itself out. This may include a curfew or an agreement not to drink or have contact with certain people.

Do You Have a Criminal History?

Those who have a criminal history may be required to post bail because they may be a great danger to society while out of jail. They may also be more of a flight risk regardless of the charges that they are currently facing. Anyone who is required to post bail may be able to get a bail bond within hours of entering jail.

A single phone call may be all that it takes to get the money needed to secure your release. Therefore, don’t assume that you will be locked up overnight or for the weekend even if you aren’t allowed to leave on your own recognizance. However, if you have a lengthy criminal record, don’t be surprised if your bail amount is relatively high even if the crime you committed was a relatively minor one.

Does the Judge Have the Ability to Let You Go Without Bail?

In some instances, the jurisdiction where you were taken into custody may follow a set bail schedule. This means that a judge may be required to make you pay bail regardless of your crime and flight risk. However, it is rare that a community would force a nonviolent offender or someone who doesn’t have a previous criminal record to spend time in jail unnecessarily. In some cases, a judge may even be able to waive the requirement to pay bail if it represents and undue financial burden.

Do You Have Ties to the Community?

You may pose less of a flight risk if you have ties to the community such as a spouse, child or parent in the area. Other relevant ties to the community may include a business that you operate in the local area or the fact that you have a job with a local employer. Generally, those with ties to the community have less incentive to leave as doing so could strain relationships or cut them off from resources that they need to live a normal life.

Is There Any Other Reason to Assume You Are a Flight Risk?

Bail may be necessary in cases involving defendants who are deemed to be a flight risk. However, you may be allowed to take steps to minimize your risk of leaving the area such as turning in your passport or temporarily surrendering your drivers license. Giving up a passport makes it almost impossible to gain entry into most foreign countries while giving up a drivers license limits your ability to go to far from home without help.

Being allowed to leave jail without paying bail is an ideal scenario for anyone who is looking to limit any potential interruption to their lives. As you can be out of jail in a matter of minutes or hours, you don’t necessarily have to miss work or arrange child care for the next several days. In some cases, you may not even need to tell your employer or family members about your charges if you can get the case resolved quickly and avoid jail time.

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