What Does “Released on Own Recognizance” Mean?

White wooden dices spelling word bail beside justice statue and red law textbook in background

If you’re placed in custody following an arrest, you might have the chance to post bail. Or, the judge might release you on your “own recognizance”. But what does this mean, and how do you secure a quick release? Below, we consider what an “O.R. release is” and how to get released on your own recognizance.

What Does “Released on Own Recognizance” Mean?

An O.R. release means you’re released from custody without posting bail. In other words, you don’t need to pay cash bail to secure your release. All you must do is promise to appear for future court dates in your criminal case. 

  • O.R. releases can save you money on bail fees. However, they often come with strict conditions attached.
  • Skipping bail can be a serious offense – especially if you’re released on your own recognizance. 
  • Not everyone is eligible for an O.R. release. A defense lawyer will explain if you can seek an O.R. release after criminal charges. 

Do You Need to Post Bail for an O.R. Release?

No. To be clear, you don’t pay bail if you’re released on your own recognizance. You simply sign an agreement which confirms you will attend scheduled hearing dates. 

You must also confirm that you will abide by any bail conditions set by the judge. Conditions may include:

  • Alcohol or drug counseling
  • Electronic monitoring/home confinement
  • Ignition interlocking devices (DUI/DWI offenses)
  • Substance abuse testing
  • Travel restrictions

Eligibility for O.R. Release

Judges don’t offer O.R. release to every defendant. Judges must consider various factors when contemplating O.R. releases, including:

  • Criminal history: You’re more likely to get an O.R. release if you don’t have much (or any) criminal record. Defendants with serious records are less likely to get O.R. release. 
  • Community ties: “Community ties” mean your relationship with the local community. If you’re local and have strong local ties e.g. stable employment, you might be more likely to get O.R. release. 
  • Offense committed: The more serious or violent the offense, the less likely it is that judges will grant O.R. release. This is because an O.R. release may not be in the public interest.
  • Pretrial investigations: Courts usually investigate a defendant’s suitability before offering O.R. release. The outcome of these investigations may determine whether judges release defendants on their own recognizance. 

For advice on how to get a defendant released on own recognizance, consult an attorney.

Released on Own Recognizance and Felony Charges 

Set off handcuffs one open one closed on dark wooden table

Defendants facing minor charges and misdemeanors are often granted O.R. release. But what about defendants dealing with felony offenses? You may still get released on your own recognizance. Typically, though, you’ll be expected to attend a formal hearing first.  

Hearings for O.R. Releases

In CA, judges must hold formal O.R. hearings if the defendant violates CA Penal Code 1270 or 1319.5. Here’s what this means. 

Penal Code 1270.1 

The judge must hold a formal hearing if the crime is one of the following:

  • Violent felony e.g. murder
  • Serious felony e.g. rape
  • Protective order violation e.g. violence or threat of violence 

Penal Code 1319.5 

Hearings must also be scheduled if:

  • The defendant is already on felony probation or parole. 
  • They have a history of failing to appear for court hearings for certain offenses. Examples include domestic violence or any felony offense. 

The prosecution can oppose O.R. release. Defense lawyers must show that the defendant poses no risk to the public in order to secure an O.R. release.

Penalties for Failing to Appear in Court 

When you’re released from jail early, you’re expected to attend any scheduled court dates afterwards. Non-attendance means violating a court order. The judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest and you could face further charges. 

Always return to court when required to do so. Not sure what future court dates are coming up? Check with your attorney. 

Which Is Best: Released on Own Recognizance or Posting Bail?

It depends on the case, but here are some points to consider.

O.R. releases may take longer to arrange because they sometimes require a hearing. On the other hand, there’s no need to post bail. So if you don’t have the funds, this could be an advantage.  

There may be more conditions attached to an O.R. release because you’re not paying for it. However, there are always penalties for missing court dates whether you’re on O.R. release or bail. 

Your criminal defense attorney can help you decide whether asking for an O.R. release or bail is best for you.

What Happens if I Need to Post Bail Instead?

If you can’t get an O.R. release or it’s not right for you, the judge may still grant bail. But what if you can’t afford the sum? 

That’s where bail bonds come in. In return for a small fee, bail bondsmen agree to post bail on your behalf. Bail bonds are available 24/7 from Bail Hotline. We’re always here when you need us! 
Call us or visit our offices throughout CA to get your bail bonds today.

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