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'Own Recognizance' Release

When a criminal suspect is arrested, booked and granted release on their "own recognizance," or "O.R.," no bail money is paid to the court and no bond is posted. The suspect is merely released after promising, in writing, to appear in court for all upcoming proceedings.

Factors and Conditions of "Own Recognizance" Release

Most stat criminal courts impose certain conditions on O.R. release, prohibiting the suspect from leaving the area while charges remain outstanding, or requiring that the suspect contact the court periodically until their case is resolved.

As with setting bail, when deciding whether to release a suspect on their own recognizance, a criminal court judge considers:

  • The severity of the crime charged;
  • The suspect's criminal record;
  • The danger posed to the public if the suspect is released; and
  • The suspect's ties to family, community and employment

If a suspect who has been released on their own recognizance fails to appear in criminal court as scheduled, they are subject to immediate arrest, and any chance for having reasonable bail set is all but eliminated.

Additional Conditions of O.R. Release

Most courts impose additional conditions on subjects in exchange for releasing them on their own recognizance when there's a nexus between the condition and the crime charged.

For example, multiple-DUI offenders are often required to immediately surrender their vehicle and begin attending alcohol treatment classes in exchange for their release. Similarly, many states have strict domestic violence laws requiring suspected batterers to immediately enroll in domestic violence education classes. These same suspects are often required to stay a certain number of feet or yards from the alleged-victim in the form of a temporary restraining order, or "T.R.O.," until the case is resolved.

Still other suspects are required to immediately attend anger management classes, surrender their passport, or even agree not to associate with known gang members or convicted felons. As expected, each condition must be reasonably related to the circumstances of the case and the crime charged.

Sheriff Pretrial Release Programs

With budgetary constraints looming, many county sheriff departments use their discretionary authority to release custodial suspects on their own recognizance even before their first court appearance. Some sheriff departments call this system "supervised pretrial release," whereas others call it "citing out a defendant," meaning the suspect has been given a citation with a notice to appear upon threat of warrant.

To facilitate a pretrial release, or O.R. release during booking or even in the field, the sheriff makes a judgment call to grant "O.R." or "Supervised O.R." status to a suspect before arraignment. In making this judgment call, the sheriff weighs the same factors as courts do in the bail-setting process, namely severity, record, public safety and community ties. The Sheriff the reports to the court on the reasons for release, the location and restraints placed on the suspect, and the contacts and methods available in case of flight.

Drug Rehab as a Condition of Own Recognizance Release

As with most criminal justice systems, drug addiction and drug sales constitute a majority of the arrests and criminal case docket. One national study suggests that 65 percent of all arrestees test positive for an illicit drug.

Therefore, O.R. release grants and supervised pretrial release programs often condition the suspect's release upon immediate enrollment in an inpatient or outpatient drug treatment program.

Get Legal Help with Getting Released on Your Own Recognizance

A criminal suspect under investigation or arrest often needs a criminal defense attorney to arrange for an O.R. interview and forward mitigating factors to the court or sheriff immediately upon interrogation or arrest. So if you're under investigation or arrest, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to understand your situation.

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