When you are facing criminal charges and speaking to a defense lawyer, your first focus is going to be how will your case turn out. Can your case be dismissed? Are you going to be serving any jail time? Will this be on your record forever?
Of course, these are all valid questions. You want to know how your life is going to be once one of the most stressful situations you have ever dealt with finally ends. However, as a criminal defense attorney will tell you, the impact of your case starts right from the onset, when you make your first court appearance for your formal arraignment. At that time, the judge will impose conditions of release, and these are the conditions that can take the biggest toll on you.
Conditions of Release
The release conditions are just what they sound like: orders or conditions that the judge will apply to you so you can be released from custody while your case is pending. This means that right at the start of your case, you can be put in jail unless you follow the rules the court sets. This applies even if you have never been charged before, and even though you have not been convicted of anything yet.
Release conditions vary by person and case, but your defense lawyer should be able to give you an idea of what to expect after he or she reviews your case. At the very least, you will be required to promise that you will show up to all court hearings in the future and to update the court should your contact information change. The promise is also known as being released on “personal recognizance.”
Another well-known release condition is bail, a sum of money the court holds until the case is resolved. It is paid by the defendant, and he or she will receive it back as long as he or she returns to court. The bail is meant to act as an incentive for a person to keep attending court dates. If bail is a condition of your release and you can’t pay it, you will have to remain in jail until the bail is paid or your case is resolved. If you are able to pay bail, you will have to come to all of your court appearances so that the money isn’t forfeited.
In some cases where a victim has been named, you may be required to comply with a no-contact order as part of your release conditions. This order says you cannot be near or contact the victim in any way while the case is still ongoing. The court can still impose this order even if the named victim doesn’t want one, and you can still be put in jail and face additional charges for any contact with the victim even if he or she wants that contact.
Conditions Can Vary Widely
While no-contact orders and bail tend to be the most common release conditions, a judge can impose just about any condition he or she feels is relevant to your charge. In a DUI case, for example, you may be ordered not to drink or consume drugs. You may also be required to have an ignition interlock device on your car if you drive. If you have firearms, you may have to hand them over to local law enforcement officers.
That’s why it is recommended that you speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as you have been arrested and/or charged with a crime. You will have to abide by the release conditions set, which can cost you time and money and have a serious impact on your daily life. Your attorney will work toward obtaining more favorable release conditions if at all possible in your case, but he or she needs to be involved from the start to do that.
While release conditions can be changed, it’s often difficult. That is why it’s vital that you and your attorney work together to form the best argument possible at your arraignment. These conditions can upend your life even more than the sentence you could be facing, and fighting those conditions often requires the help of an experienced attorney.