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What Does “Release on Recognizance” Mean?

In a criminal hearing, most people know that the defendant can be released from jail if they post bail.  In some instance, the judge may let the person out of jail without them having to pay bail money.  This procedure is known as a “Release on Recognizance” and may be available for defendants in certain criminal trials.

Release on recognizance, or “ROR”, usually requires the defendant to make a promise that they will attend all future court hearings after they have been released.  Thus, a defendant who has been granted a release on recognizance is free to resume their daily life activities, but they must appear in court when summoned.

When is a Release on Recognizance Available?

First of all, release on recognizance is usually only available for less serious misdemeanor crimes.  It usually isn’t an option for felony charges, especially those where releasing the defendant may pose a danger to society.  Also, ROR is usually granted only to certain defendants, such as:

  • Those who have little to no criminal background and are deemed trustworthy
  • Those who haven’t previously been held in contempt of court, and who haven’t missed prior court dates
  • Defendants who have families and steady employment
  • Defendants who will not pose a risk of harm to the community if released

Release on recognizance may occur before or after the criminal arraignment.  This depends on the availability of important facts that the judge can use to determine eligibility.  The defendant will usually be required to sign a court document under oath, which gives their promise to return to court when summoned.

Failure to return to court if granted an ROR can lead to other criminal consequences, such as a contempt order or failure to appear in court charges. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Release on Recognizance Options?

Release on recognizance can be very favorable for the defendant.  However, such options are usually up to the judge, and will require the assistance of an experienced criminal lawyer.  When faced with criminal charges, the defendant and their lawyer should inquire as to whether an ROR is available, and what their possible sentencing options are.  A qualified attorney can help raise the proper defenses for the charges.  

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-08-2015 12:27 PM PDT

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