The Purpose of Pre-Trial Release
Pre-trial release is a way for those accused of a crime to continue their lives outside of jail until their court date. It was developed as a way for American courts to balance personal liberty against the safety of the community. For this reason, the only defendants who are not given the option of pre-trial release in Texas are those who have committed a capital offense (e.g. murder) or have previous felonies on their record. This is especially true if they commit a felony while on pre-trial release.
Violent crimes and sex crimes often disqualify the accused from pre-trial release because the nature of these crimes endangers others. Another circumstance of disqualification in Texas is when the accused violates a protection order (or restraining order) set for violence against a family member or minor. For these reasons, a person will not be allowed bail for the safety of the community.
However, defendants that are eligible for pre-trial release can leave jail upon the signing of a bond. Bonds are contracts where defendants will pay to get out of jail until their trial. The bond is activated by the payment of the bail, which is set by the court. Once the bond is paid, the defendant must abide by certain rules or risk further consequences, much like probation.
There are three types of bonds:
- Personal recognizance (PR)
Cash bonds require the defendant pay the entire bail amount in full. Surety bonds are when a third party posts bail for you. PR bonds are bonds that all of us are familiar with—it is a release of a defendant with the written promise that they will return for their trial. Traffic tickets are also PR bonds, as signing them is a promise that the cited driver will appear for trial.
Critics of the current bond system, including Attorney General Eric Holder, hold that bails are often set too high for the poor community, which also struggles with higher instances of crime. In New York City, 87% of those charged with non-violent misdemeanors in 2008 were unable to secure a bond because they could not afford it. As a result, they crowded the jails, costing the state even more money while taxing an overworked criminal court system.
For answers about pre-trial release and criminal defense, contact Attorney A. Oliver Hassibi.