BEEN ARRESTED? SOME SIMPLE POINTERS TO KEEP YOU CLEAR OF TROUBLE BEFORE YOU GO TO COURT
Pretrial Release is a Privilege
Your release from jail following an arrest is not absolute. It is a conditional release because if you fail to meet certain conditions, you can be held in jail until your case is disposed. That could mean months or years of confinement depending on your charge and whether you are going to trial. It is always important to remember that your pretrial release has been obtained solely by your agreement to faithfully follow certain terms and conditions.
Anyone out on pretrial release should know the following facts:
• In most cases the Court requires some type of surety commitment; usually through the posting of a bail bond. This bond typically represents a monetary amount set by the Court that should insure your appearance in Court once the case begins, or your return to the jurisdiction should you live in a different city or state.
• Many pretrial release bonds have important requirements and restrictions that you must be aware of or you could have your bond revoked thereby sending you to jail possibly for the entire duration of your case.
• Pretrial release bail bonds can even be revoked when the person who bonded you out of jail no longer wants to be associated with your case. So, as a general rule, don’t say or doing anything that is going to piss them off.
Many bail bonding companies require that you call them on a regular basis to check in. Sometimes clients are forbidden from leaving their city or town while their case is pending. If you have to leave town for any reason, you should call or better yet, make an appointment to visit your bondsman to see if your travel plans are permissible.
Sometimes the Courts will require that a person on pretrial release wear an electronic monitoring devise to insure that they abide by all stated conditions of their release. This monitor will alert the monitoring station whenever you travel outside the parameter of your approved location. These devises are costly, embarrassing and don’t match well with most apparel. If you are wearing one, just get used to it. All kidding aside, I routinely tell clients with a GPS ankle monitor to just think back to their jail experience every time they complain about having to wear it.
Curfews are common restrictions of Pretrial release. This requirement is typically employed when the Courts are concerned for public safety. The crime that you are charged with may be seen as a threat to the public welfare. All curfew requirements must be carefully understood and rigidly followed.
It has been increasingly common for judges to require frequent and random drug testing of persons out on Pretrial release. Because some drugs like marijuana can stay in your system for more than a month, it is important that you tell your attorney if you suspect that you could fail a drug test.
Remember, do not take or consume any prescription medication unless you have a valid prescription. Otherwise you could jeopardize your Pretrial release and you could be breaking the law.
No Contact Orders
Many judges impose No Contact orders on persons upon their release from jail. In Domestic Violence cases and other charges like Stalking, the Courts routinely prohibit persons on Pretrial release from contacting the alleged victims in the pending case. This restriction may also extend to the alleged victim’s children and family. This is a very serious condition that must be strictly followed if the Judge ordered it in your case.
You are required to appear in person for all Court dates. Your criminal defense attorney can, in some circumstances, waive your appearance. But, as a general rule, you must personally appear in Court on the date and time commanded by the Judge. Any failure to appear can result in a warrant for your arrest and will certainly mean the end of your Pretrial release.
Situations that can cause the revoking of your Pretrial release:
1. Commission of a new crime and/or arrest.
2. Any failure to abide by your bondsman’s orders.
3. If someone other than yourself posted the bond on your behalf, they can go to the bondsman or to the Court seeking to be relieved of their surety and have your bond revoked.
4. Unauthorized travel outside the jurisdiction of the Court.
5. Failed drug test.
6. Unauthorized contact with people that you have been ordered to avoid (that goes for places as well).
7. Additional charges added in your case can result in a new arrest, terminating your Pretrial release.
8. Failure to appear in Court as previously directed.
Helpful tips for a successful Pretrial release:
1. Keep a low profile. Stay at home. Establish a daily routine that keeps you out of trouble.
2. Avoid potential trouble spots like bars, dance clubs, pool halls.
3. Cut out alcohol use as this could lead to poor decision making.
4. Seek out mental health counseling for depressing or persistent bad thoughts. Depression is a common ailment of persons facing criminal prosecutions.
5. If you are a religious person, embrace your faith by attending services and church activities.
6. Avoid arguments or angry confrontations with family members or house mates.
7. Don’t give anyone a reason to call the police on you.
8. Find out the exact date and time of your Court date. Make sure you know where the courthouse is located and the correct courtroom that you will appear in.
9. Maintain contact with your bail bondsman on a regular basis.
10. Don’t commit any new criminal offenses.
James G. Souza III is a Tampa, Florida trial lawyer who writes and speaks regularly on the rights of people accused of crimes and how to seal/expunge criminal records.