How Judges Decide to Release You on Your Own Recognizance, or "OR"

If you promise to show up for court appearances and the judge believes you, you'll get "ORed," or released on your own recognizance.

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Simply put, O.R. release is no-cost bail. Defendants released on their own recognizance need only sign a written promise to appear in court as required. No bail has to be paid, either to the court or to a bail bond seller. However, all other aspects of bail remain the same. That is, a judge can place conditions on a defendant released O.R. (such as to check in regularly with a probation officer and to abstain from the use of drugs or alcohol) and order the arrest of a defendant who fails to show up in court when required.

How Judges Decide to Release People on OR

Judges have nearly absolute discretion when it comes to deciding whether to require bail or release a suspect on his or her OR. Generally, the same factors that might incline a judge to set low bail may persuade the judge to grant OR release. Thus, factors favoring OR release include a suspect’s good past record, longtime residence in a community, support of family members, and employment.

OR Officers

Many communities rely on OR officers to help judges decide whether to release suspects OR (in some areas, O. officers are called pretrial officers). When a suspect requests release OR, a judge may ask an O. officer to do a quick check of a suspect’s general background, past criminal record, and ties to the community. The OR officer will then make a nonbinding recommendation to the judge. If possible, a suspect should ask an employer, religious leader, and others who can speak positively of the suspect to contact an OR officer or contact the court directly to support the OR request.

This article was excerpted from The Criminal Law Handbook, by Paul Bergman, J.D., and Sara J. Berman, J.D.

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