Released on Your Own Recognizance

If you have been charged with a crime, you may be wondering whether you will be able to pay a bond to get out of jail. In such a case, you may be able to obtain a release on your own recognizance. A release on your own recognizance (or personal recognizance) is a written promise signed by the defendant promising that they will show up for future court appearances and not engage in illegal activity while out on release on their own recognizance.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Defendants released by judges on their own recognizance are allowed to leave jail with the promise that they will show up later on the court date. Similar to how a person signs a document promising to appear in court for a traffic violation but is otherwise free to go, defendants charged with a misdemeanor crime or, sometimes, even felony charges sign an agreement at the jail in lieu of bail promising to appear for their later criminal court date. Some states call this agreement a personal recognizance or PR bond, others may call it something else such as an OR for “own recognizance” or a signature bond.

Keep reading to find out what does personal recognizance mean. If you require further legal assistance, just enter your ZIP code below.

What does it mean when you’re released on your own recognizance?

Each state and county has its own set of rules to decide who is eligible to be released on their own recognizance. Despite these differences, there are certain categories of criminal charges or groups of defendants that are eligible for an order of release on recognizance. The first kind of defendant for release on their own recognizance is lower grade offenders. Jail officials only want to keep repeat and violent criminals in jail, so lower level, non-violent offenders tend to get priority on personal recognizance types of bonds. Defendants with a long criminal history may not be eligible for release.

The second category is indigent offenders. If a court or magistrate decides that a defendant cannot afford an attorney, they will appoint a criminal defense lawyer on his behalf. Similarly, if they find that the defendant is indigent and cannot afford a recognizance bond for release from jail, they will sometimes grant the defendant an OR so he can get out of jail.

The third category of offenders are those with serious medical conditions. For example, if a defendant has a condition that requires weekly chemotherapy treatments, then jail officials will ask the magistrate to set a PR bond so that the county is not liable for the defendant’s medical treatment while in jail.

The fourth category is defendants who have been held for a long time without a charge being formally filed. For example, in Texas, if a defendant was arrested for a felony drug offense, but over ninety days went by without the prosecutor obtaining an indictment, then Texas law provides for a defendant’s release on personal recognizance because of the delay.

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How do you get a PR bond?

After reviewing the criminal record and determining a defendant’s eligibility, the next step is getting the PR bond. Some jurisdictions or magistrates will automatically grant defendants PR bonds for lesser a criminal offense and for defendants that are indigent. Other jurisdictions require a defendant to file a motion. A motion is basically a one-page document that defendants send to the magistrate requesting a release on their own recognizance. Depending on the jurisdiction, it may use one of the following titles: Motion for Bond Reduction, Writ of Habeas Corpus, or Motion for Personal Recognizance Bond.

Regardless of the title, the process is the same. After the motion is submitted to the judge, the defendant must request a hearing on the motion.At the bail hearing, the defendant produces evidence or testimony that he cannot afford the bond, or that there is another reason (like a medical condition) explaining why he should be released on a PR bond. Evidence can include testimony regarding the defendant’s lack of assets or doctor’s records. The important thing to remember is that courts do not allow defendants to continuously request PR bonds. The bond reduction hearing is usually a defendant’s only chance at getting out, so he should be prepared to make the argument for release on his own recognizance.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The obvious advantage of being released on your own recognizance after an arrest is that it is significantly cheaper initially than a cash or surety bond. Some counties do not require that a defendant put any money down or contact a bail bondsman before being released. However, some do require defendants to participate in a pretrial release program where they report monthly to a probation officer while on bond. To participate, a defendant must make a monthly payment. The payment can range from $30 to $50 per month. Some require a larger one-time deposit. This will vary with the amount of the bond. Defendants released on their own recognizance tend to have more reporting requirements than other defendants. Before a defendant requests a PR or OR release, he should understand all of the pretrial release requirements in his jurisdiction.

The disadvantage of a PR bond is that the defendant is personally liable for the entire amount of the bond should he fail to comply with all of the conditions. For example, if a defendant had a $1,000 PR bond and then forgot to show up for court, the court could forfeit the bond and order the individual to pay the county the $1,000 bond. On surety bonds, the surety usually absorbs this expense. After forfeiture, a defendant is also sent back to jail and is usually not given another chance to get a PR bond.

How do judges decide whether to release someone on their own recognizance?

When it comes to deciding whether to require bail or release a suspect on his or her own recognizance, judges usually take a few factors in mind. These are generally the same factors that might incline a judge to set low bail bond. Thus, such factors include a suspect’s good past record, longtime residence in a community, support of family members, and employment.

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How can you get legal help?

If a defendant can’t find the forms or doesn’t know how to present evidence at a personal recognizance hearing, then he should consult with a criminal defense attorney. Even though the process is fairly simple, a hearing to be released on your own recognizance is not an opportunity to be wasted.

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