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A court is more likely to grant own recognizance release if you can establish that you:
are not a danger to the community or to victims or witnesses in the case,
are not a flight risk,
have no criminal record or criminal history, and
have strong ties to the community.
Note that a judge will usually not grant an O.R. release with serious felony offenses.
1. What is an O.R. release?
The criminal laws of most states say that an O.R. is a pretrial releasefrom jail in a criminal case based on a person’s written promise to appear for future court appearances.1 If a defendant hires a criminal defense attorney, the attorney may be able to appear on the defendant’s behalf for some of these future court dates.
With an O.R. release, you are released from custody withoutthe need of
In cases involving the setting of bail, you are released from jail only after paying money, usually in the form of cash bail or via a bail pond.3
Note that the amount of bail that a judge sets varies depending on the criminal charges filed against you. Most counties have their own bail schedules that set forth the amount of bail for each type of crime.
If you cannot afford bail in your case, you can typically ask the judge to reduce it at a bail hearing.
2. How do you qualify for own personal recognizance release?
Sometimes a court or police agency will automatically grant O.R. release in minor misdemeanor cases (for example, in simple DUI or shoplifting cases) where the defendant is not a:
flight risk, or
risk to public safety.
Though if a judge does set a bail amount, you or your criminal defense lawyer can ask for O.R. release at your arraignment or during a bail hearing.
Some arguments that you may present to persuade a judge to grant R.O.R. are that you:
are trustworthy enough to show up for future court dates,
are not a flight risk and release is in the interests of criminal justice,
are a responsible citizen,
have strong ties to the community (for example, you have family members near where you live or have a job in the community),
do not have a violent history,
will keep your distance from any victims in your case,
have not committed any criminal offenses in the past, and
are financially secure.
Note that a judge will normally not grant own recognizance release if:
the charges against you are more serious,
your release would compromise public safety, or
there are no reasonable assurances that you will appear in court.4
3. What are the conditions for own recognizance release?
The main rule of O.R. release is that you promise to appear at all future court hearings in your case. At certain court hearings, your attorney may appear in your place.
Note, though, that judges often have the authority to condition an O.R. release on the defendant’s agreement to do or not do certain things.5
For example, you might only be able to get R.O.R. upon agreeing to:
periodically check in with a designated agency or court,
attend mental health treatment,
attend alcohol abuse treatment,
wear an electronic monitoring device,
adhere to a restraining order (for example, in a domestic violence case), and/or
4. What if you miss a court date?
If you are granted an “own recognizance” release and then miss a court date, a judge will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
A bench warrant usually authorizes a police officer to arrest you and bring you directly to court.
If you do not appear in court after a certain number of days after a warrant is issued, a prosecutor can typically charge you with the crime of failure to appear.
The specific penalties for this offense range from fines to several years in jail depending on the crime you were originally charged with.
Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition – “Release on own recognizance.”
Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition – “Bail.”
See, for example, California Penal Code 1270(a) PC.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.