Legal Dictionary


Own Recognizance Release

Own Recognizance, commonly referred to as "OR" or "Personal Recognizance," refers to the release of a defendant (in a criminal case) from jail on the defendant's promise to appear in court for all scheduled court dates. Any defendant who has been arrested and charged with a crime is eligible to be released on his or her Own Recognizance unless the crime charged is punishable by death.

If a defendant is not released on his or her Own Recognizance after being arrested and booked, the defendant should make arrangements to post bail to get out of jail, or wait to go to court within 48 hours of being arrested (not counting weekends) and speak to the judge about an OR release. It is at that first court appearance (the arraignment) that the defendant or the defendant's attorney, can make an argument to the judge for OR release. Own Recognizance is an inexpensive alternative to posting bail, saving a defendant thousands of dollars.

Before a defendant is released on his or her Own Recognizance, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • That the defendant released on his or her Own Recognizance will not jeopardize public safety;
  • The defendant is not considered a flight risk and that the defendant will appear in court as directed to do so by the judge;
  • The defendant's prior criminal history;
  • The nature of the crime in question;
  • The defendant's failure to appear in court on previous occasions;
  • Whether the defendant is currently employed;
  • Whether the defendant has ties to the local community such as family or relatives.

OR release is not automatically granted to all defendants. In California, defendants charged with infractions or non-violent misdemeanors are the most suitable defendants for OR release unless the defendant compromises public safety or is a flight risk. Defendants charged with infractions are generally released after they are given a citation by a police officer. Defendants charged with a misdemeanor are usually released from the police station after being booked as long as they have no outstanding warrants or FTAs (Failures to Appear) and the police are able to verify a valid home address.

Those charged with misdemeanors who are not released from the police station will have an opportunity to convince the judge at their first court (arraignment) appearance that they are suitable candidates for OR release. Defendants charged with a felony are not considered the best candidates for OR release. Defendants who are on probation at the time of their new arrest are not eligible for OR release because of the underlying probation violation triggered by the new arrest.

If the judge grants an OR release, the defendant may have to sign a release agreement agreeing to:

  • Appear in court as instructed by the court;
  • Promise not to leave the state without informing the court;
  • Promise to adhere to all reasonable & specific conditions imposed by the court (such as stay away from the victim or submit to random drug testing);
  • Agree to waive extradition if she or he does not appear in court.

If you or someone you know is being charged with a crime and is seeking to be released from jail, consult with a criminal defense attorney.