An arraignment is the first court appearance after being charged with a criminal offense. During the arraignment, you will be informed of the charges against you and will have the opportunity to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest). This is also when the issue of bail will be addressed.
There are two primary outcomes of bail at the arraignment:
Required To Pay Bail
If the judge determines that you pose a flight risk or a danger to the community, they may require the payment of bail to secure your release from custody.
The bail process in a criminal case can be complex and sometimes confusing. When determining the bail amount, a judge will consider various factors.
Assessing the Risk of Additional Crimes
When setting the bail amount, the judge will assess if the individual poses a risk of committing additional crimes if released on bail. Factors that may influence the judge’s assessment include:
- The nature and severity of the charges
- Your criminal history
- Any history of failing to appear in court
- Your ties to the community, including employment and family connections
- The potential danger to the community or specific individuals
The judge will weigh these factors to determine an appropriate bail amount that balances your right to reasonable bail with the need to protect public safety.
Bail Amount and Changed Circumstances
Once the bail amount is set, it typically remains unchanged unless the defense attorney can demonstrate a change in circumstances that warrants a modification. A change in circumstances may include:
- New evidence that weakens the case against you
- A change in your situation, such as a new job or stable housing
- The dismissal of one or more charges that contributed to a high bail amount
- The discovery of errors or improprieties in the initial bail determination
This list is not exhaustive, as there may be other circumstances that could result in a changed bail amount.
Release on Your Own Recognizance
Another common outcome of the arraignment is to be released on your own recognizance (ROR). This means that you will be released from custody without having to post bail, based on the promise that you will return for future court appearances.
ROR is typically used in first-time misdemeanor cases and other non-violent offenses where the defendant poses a low flight risk and has no significant criminal history. This results in an immediate release from custody.
Potential ROR Bail Conditions
While ROR allows you to be released without posting bail, it comes with certain conditions you must follow. These conditions aim to ensure compliance with the legal process and reduce the risk of reoffending. Some common bail conditions for ROR may include:
- Electronic monitoring (such as a GPS ankle bracelet)
- Alcohol monitoring (through devices like a SCRAM bracelet or random testing)
- Enrollment in treatment programs (for substance abuse or anger management, for example)
- Compliance with a protective order, if applicable
When granted ROR, you must sign a release agreement, a legally binding document that outlines the conditions of your release. The release agreement typically requires you to:
- Promise to appear for all future court dates
- Comply with any conditions set by the court
- Not leave the state without permission from the court
- Waive extradition, meaning you agree to be returned to the jurisdiction if you flee and are apprehended in another state or country
By signing the release agreement, you acknowledge and accept the obligations associated with your ROR.
Benefits of ROR
If successful, ROR can provide several benefits to you, including:
- Immediate release from custody, allowing you to return to work and your daily life
- Reduced stress and a better ability to focus on building a strong defense
- The potential for more lenient bail conditions when represented by an experienced lawyer
ROR is generally the best outcome you can receive in terms of bail.
The Role of a Defense Attorney in Bail Reduction Motions
In California criminal cases, a lawyer can file a bail reduction motion, arguing that the current bail amount is excessive and should be lowered.
A skilled defense attorney can:
- Identify any changed circumstances that may warrant a bail reduction.
- Gather evidence to support the bail reduction motion, such as character references, employment verification, or proof of stable housing.
- Present a persuasive argument to the court, demonstrating that you are not a flight risk or a danger to the community.
- Advocate for alternative release conditions, such as electronic monitoring or supervised release, that can provide additional assurance to the court while reducing the financial burden on you.
An experienced attorney can make all the difference in securing a favorable outcome.
Penalties for Failure To Appear While on Bail
If you fail to appear in court while released on bail or ROR, you may face severe consequences. These penalties depend on the nature of the charges you were initially facing:
If you were charged with a misdemeanor and released on bail or ROR, failure to appear can result in:
- Misdemeanor probation
- Up to six months in county jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
These consequences are in addition to those that correspond with the actual crime(s) you’ve been charged with.
If you are facing felony charges and were released on bail or ROR, the penalties for failure to appear are more severe:
- Felony probation
- Up to a year in county jail or up to three years in state prison
- A fine of up to $5,000
Here, too, the penalties can apply in addition to those imposed upon conviction of the underlying crime(s).
Reach Out for Legal Help From a Trusted San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
Having an experienced San Diego criminal lawyer on your side can significantly impact your ability to obtain ROR and navigate the complexities of the legal system. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge or have questions about bail, contact Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation.