What is a signature bond?
What are the terms of a signature bond?
What are the important elements that you must know!
In this article, we will break down the legal definition of “signature bond”, so you know all there is to know about it!
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What is a signature bond
In the US criminal law, a signature bond (also called a recognizance bond or ROR) is a promise given by a person accused of a crime that they will appear in court whenever required if released from jail.
With this promise, the court releases the accused from detention for the duration of the criminal proceedings based on the person’s “promise” to make court appearances on scheduled dates.
In other words, the judge says “I will not detain you for the entire duration of the legal proceedings as you promised to me that you will not run away and you’ll show up to court when needed”.
With a signature bond, the defendant does not have to deposit any sums of money, cash or property in trust with the court to be released.
A signature bond is a “lighter” guarantee required from a defendant when compared to posting a bond with a surety bail bond.
A surety bail bond is when the court requires that the accused deposit a certain amount of money or property.
Without a signature bond or a surety bail bond, the defendant will remain in detention as the court does not have the necessary comfort that the defendant will participate in the legal proceedings without posing any risk of flight (the person may flee or disappear).
Typically, a signature bond will be considered appropriate when a person is charged with a crime for the first time (no prior criminal history) or the type of accusations are considered “minor”.
In some cases, a commissioner may require a person to co-sign with the accused (co-signature bond).
In this case, two individuals will need to sign the bail form and pledge that the accused will show up to court.
Signature bond definition
A signature bond is a type of bond that you can provide following an arrest so you can be liberated and stay out of jail until a final judgment is rendered in your criminal case.
When a person is arrested, a bail hearing may be held to determine the nature of bail possible for the arrested individual to be released while the criminal case moves forward.
When signature bonds, the person signs a document promising that he or she will show up to court every time it is required until the case is heard in trial.
How does a signature bond work
What is the promise that you give when you provide a signature bond?
The most important promise that a person gives is to pledge that they will actively participate in the court hearings so that a judge can eventually determine if the accused is guilty or not of the accusations.
The promise is given by a person signing a document acknowledging the terms and conditions associated with the promise and the possible legal consequences of breaching such promise.
In many cases, in addition to getting a person’s promise to appear in court, the authorities will also include other release conditions (bail conditions) where the accused:
- Must stay in contact with a probation officer
- Must not communicate with the victim
- Must not go to certain places
- Should not consume drugs or substances
- Should not carry arms or weapons
Qualifying for a signature bond
Who can qualify for a signature bond?
What type of accusations qualify for signature bonds?
The courts will have the inclination to grant signature bonds to individuals who have the following characteristics:
- They are accused of a minor crime
- They do not have a past criminal history
- They have important ties to their local community
- They are not considered dangerous or pose threat to society
- They do not pose a flight risk
- The court believes the person can be trusted
Also, a signature bond can be an option for misdemeanor charges and minor felonies.
The court will not consider signature bonds for serious crimes.
Signature bond amount
Unlike a traditional bail bond that requires a person to pay cash, money or property to be released, with a signature bond, a person is released by signing a form (essentially a contract) promising to show up to court.
The bail form will outline a certain amount of money as a financial penalty in case the person fails to respect his or her promise.
If the commissioner sets a $1,000 signature bond, it means that the accused can be released without having to deposit any money but if he or she violates the promise, a financial penalty of $1,000 will be imposed.
In essence, a person is promising to pay $1,000 in case the signature bond terms are not respected.
The set bail amount does not have to be paid unless the defendant fails to show up for all court hearings.
Breaching a signature bond promise
A signature bond is a “promise” or a “pledge” that you will appear in court when required.
If you have a scheduled court date, you must appear either in person or an attorney may act on your behalf.
No matter how you manifest yourself in court (by yourself or your attorney), you must show up every time you need to go to court.
If you fail to show up to court and appear when needed, you have effectively breached your promise or violated your pledge.
In that case, the court may cancel your signature bond and issue an immediate order for your arrest (bench warrant) so the police authorities can find you and bring you to court.
If that happens, it is unlikely that the court will accept to release you on a signature bond, and you may need to remain in detention until your case is heard and disposed of by the court.
In case of a breach of the oath in a signature bond, the defendant may suffer the following consequences:
- Be charged with bail jumping (additional felony accusation)
- Court can impose a monetary fine set by the bail agreement
- Court can issue a bench warrant for the person’s arrest
What is the legal meaning of signature bonds?