Types of Release from Custody
The procedures for getting out of jail while your case is pending vary from state to state and from county to county. The vocabulary is pretty variable, too. However, the following options commonly available:
a) The officers at the police station or jail may release you, on a promise to appear (sometimes called a citation, summons or ticket).
Promise to Appear: The best type of release from custody is when you simply sign a promise to come to court, without having to put up any money. Itís usually a form that looks like a traffic ticket, offered by the law enforcement agency that arrested you. You can be released on a promise to appear at various stages: at the scene of the arrest, at the police station, or at the jail. Generally speaking, officers arenít permitted to release you on promise to appear if youíre charged with a felony or acts of violence, or if you have a warrant or an immigration hold.
Bail: Bail is money that you (or people acting on your behalf) pay to the court, to be forfeited if you donít appear at scheduled hearings. In most places, thereís a list of standard bail amounts for misdemeanors and lesser felonies. So, if you can pay the pre-set bail for whatever youíre charged with, you get out of custody right away, without waiting to go before a judge. Most jails accept bail 24 hours a day. The jail may require that bail be paid with cash, cashierís checks or money orders, but some jails take credit cards (call first and ask). When the case is over, the bail money is returned. However, in some circumstances, the judge can apply the bail money to fines or restitution (especially if the defendant used his own money for the bail). Check with a local lawyer or bail bondsman to make sure you know how bail is handled in your jurisdiction.
Own Recognizance: Release on your own recognizance is the same as a promise to appear, but itís granted by a judge rather than by the police. The judge accepts your word that youíll come to court, without demanding bail. There is considerable variation in names for this procedure: own recognizance (OR), release on your own recognizance (ROR), personal recognizance (PR), etc.
Generally, release on bail or on your own recognizance involves a degree of court supervision. The conditions may include: restricted travel, stay-away orders, and periodic reporting to a supervising officer.
In nearly all jurisdictions, minors are not entitled to bail. If a minor is released while a case is pending, it will normally be on his own recognizance under court supervision.