When charged with a crime [felony or misdemeanor], one of the first things an accused must do is appear before a municipal judge for an arraignment and to have a bond established. The arraignment is for the benefit of the accused; to let the person know, on a formal basis, what charges are being brought. The bond is for the benefit of the court; designed to ensure your return to future proceedings in your case.
A bond is also useful to the accused to the extent that, while the case is pending, the accused is not incarcerated and can continue living a [fairly] normal life and can maintain employment, until the matter is resolved. In more serious cases, where bonds tend to be higher, there is the added advantage of being able to assist counsel with developing and asserting a strong defense to the charges.
Bonds take many forms. In the overwhelming majority of misdemeanor offenses, a personal recognizance bond will be set in a nominal amount; usually less than $5000. This means that you are free to leave the court on your own recognizance and if you do not show-up at future court dates, you owe to the court the amount of the bond. Personal recognizance bonds are issued to people that have ties to the local community and who pose no flight risk.
Other bonds involve paying money, either to the court or to a licensed bondsman. Once posted, the court keeps the bond money until the case is completed, usually applying the bond toward fines and costs.
Often, a bond comes with several conditions. The most common conditions are that the accused refrain from the use of alcohol and illegal drugs; this is so even in cases not involving alcohol. Other times, if an alleged victim is involved, the accused may not be allowed to come within a mile of the victim. Some bond conditions require the bonder to wear an alcohol tether or a GPS tether.
Whenever the charge involves a drug crime or an alcohol-related driving offense, then random drug and alcohol testing are imposed as a condition of the bond. The person testing submits breath and/or urine samples to a designated testing center near the court; these tests produce reports for the court; a positive test result is immediately reported to the court so that it can be addressed by the judge at your next court date.
Given the wide variety of bond conditions, it is not uncommon for a person to violate a condition, either intentionally or inadvertently. This is why it is critical that you understand the conditions of your bond. Also, when acquainting yourself with your bond conditions [they are always written down] be sure to receive any clarification you need from your probation officer, not just your attorney.
When a bond condition is violated, the accused risks having the bond revoked and spending the balance of the time in jail while your lawyer sorts out and resolves your case; or while you await a trial date [this could be weeks or months]. Good legal representation can assist you in the alleged bond violation situation. Often, there is a valid excuse or factors that mitigate the bond violator’s culpability and justify a “second chance”.
If bond conditions are not respected, the judge will not believe the defendant is taking the case seriously. Once revoked, it becomes difficult to get another bond established.
Contact our office to schedule a free legal consultation if you are concerned about your compliance with the conditions of your bond, or if you would like to address these conditions with the court and seek some relief.