Getting Out of Jail

There are several procedures for getting out of jail while a case is in process. If you are in possession of cannabis, law enforcement officers may arrest you and let the judge decide the validity of your medical marijuana claim. Once arrested, the judge will decide whether to offer you bail, bond, or release you on your own recognizance (this is known as OR, not all states offer this option).

Citation: Citing out is a type of release from custody in which you sign a citation, which is a promise to appear in court. It is usually a form that looks like a traffic ticket. Never sign a piece of paper that is an admission of guilt. Read the form closely and make sure you know what you are signing. Possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is a petty offense and usually leads to a citation.

Bail: Bail is money you pay to the court, to be forfeited if you don't appear at scheduled hearings. A bail bondsman can put up the money for you, but you have to give the bondsman a percentage of the total bail, which the bondsman keeps as payment. Often, there is a pre-set bail for misdemeanors and lesser felonies that you can pay at the jail without waiting to go before a judge.

Bond: A bond is like bail except that you put up collateral instead of paying money. Collateral is something of value, like a car, a house, or property.

OR: Release on your own recognizance (OR, ROR or PR) is simply your promise to come to court for scheduled hearings without having to put up bond or pay bail. Usually you will only be released on your own recognizance if you can prove that: (1) you are not a danger to the community; and (2) you are not a flight risk or unlikely to return for court appearances.

You are likely to be kept in jail if you:

  •              Have an outstanding warrant for another charge
  •              Are already out on OR, bond or bail for another charge
  •              Are currently on probation or parole
  •              Have failed to appear for court dates in the past
  •              Have immigration problems

You can prove you're not a flight risk by organizing documents for your first court appearance that show the judge you have long-term ties to the community and are therefore unlikely to skip town. Assemble as many of the following documents as possible. You need the originals, plus a copy to give the court:

             Lease, rent receipts, utility bills, phone bills (both current bills and old ones to show the time you've been at this residence)

             Employment contract, pay stubs, records of volunteer work

             School ID, school records

             Proof of membership in community organizations or churches

             General character reference letters from landlords, roommates, employers, teachers, clergy

             List of character references with phone numbers

             Letters on doctor's stationery about any medical conditions or appointments that necessitate your release

It would be very difficult for your friends to assemble such materials while you are sitting in jail. It makes more sense for you to put together this packet in advance and keep it in a safe and accessible place. If you are arrested, your friends can bring these papers to your lawyer so that you will have this material in court.