Conditions of release are rules that you must follow after being released from jail, whether you released on bail or on your own recognizance.
The judge of your case sets the conditions of release, and these will vary depending on your case and your history. The law gives judges considerable latitude in setting these conditions of release.
Conditions of release may include avoiding the use of drugs or alcohol and submitting to random testing, not possessing any type of weapons, looking for or maintaining work, staying away from certain people, following a curfew or following certain travel restrictions.
If you are charged with a drug or alcohol-related offense, such as driving under the influence, the judge will likely make avoiding drugs and alcohol a condition of release. This may require you to come in for drug and alcohol tests or even take random tests at any time. If you have a history of alcohol offenses, the judge may go a step further and require that you have an ignition interlock device installed in your car, which will require that you blow into a breathalyzer on the device before you’re able to start the car. In the event that your blood alcohol content (BAC) isn’t below the programmed maximum in the device, your car won’t start.
In the event that you’re charged with a crime against a specific victim, there will most likely be a condition of release that you stay away from that person.
Before your case has gone to trial, you may be required to avoid traveling outside of the county or the surrounding areas. You will also need to let the court know immediately if you have a change of address.
Going to court on all your scheduled court dates will always be a condition of your release, and violating this will likely result in a warrant for your arrest. If you posted bail to be released, you also won’t get your bail money back if you miss court dates.
There are situations where conditions of release are negotiable. For example, if you need to travel for work, it’s possible that the judge may allow you to travel outside your county so you don’t lose your job. Keep in mind that the judge doesn’t want to cause you to lose your job or end up unable to go to school, so you can negotiate conditions if you can prove that they’re going to negatively impact your quality of life in certain ways. Other conditions will not be negotiable, such as conditions requiring you to stay away from the victim or avoid drugs and alcohol.
While the judge does have quite a bit of flexibility in setting conditions of release, there are limits to this, and the judge can’t set any conditions that violate your constitutional rights. For example, a judge wouldn’t be able to set a condition of release requiring that you allow police searches of your home at any time, because that violates your Fourth Amendment rights.
The punishment for violating a condition of release depends on the violation. Common punishments include a warning, a warrant being issued for your arrest, additional restrictions, increasing your bail, revoking your bail and putting you back in jail, or holding you in contempt of court. Again, the judge has considerably latitude in determining your punishment for violating a condition of release. If it’s a relatively minor violation that you may not have even realized you were committing, the judge might let you off with a warning. On the other hand, if you threatened a witness or got in touch with someone the judge prohibited you from contacting, it’s probable that the judge will institute a more severe punishment.
It’s important to consult with a lawyer to make sure that you fully understand your conditions of release, and to argue on your behalf if you need to negotiate those conditions. You don’t want to end up violating one of the conditions unknowingly, or end up having a condition that interferes with your day-to-day life.