Texas criminal defense attorney Neal Davis explains what bond conditions are, how a bond violation occurs, and your legal rights.
If you or a loved one faces a criminal charge for which bond has been set, you also may face certain bond conditions. You may not understand what are bond conditions, but veteran Houston criminal defense attorney Neal Davis can help.
Bond Conditions By Law
By law, bond conditions are court-imposed requirements that a defendant on pre-trial release must follow until his case is resolved. To convey these conditions, a judge signs an Order Setting Conditions of Bond/Release. These conditions can be re-visited or even challenged on appeal by the defendant.
Such bond conditions may be set for the protection of so-called victims while a defendant is free pending trial, even though the defendant has not yet been convicted of any crime. That's because, according to Article 17.40 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the Court has the authority to impose "any reasonable condition of bond related to the safety of a victim of the alleged offense or to the safety of the community."
For a defendant who's been convicted and files an appeal, bond conditions should strike a balance between ensuring that the defendant appears in court for appeal and respecting the defendant's interest in staying free pending appeal.
Failure to obey bond conditions can mean an immediate and indefinite return to jail, so reading and heeding bond conditions is extremely important. Being in custody does nothing to help the defense. The defendant is away from his or her loved ones and cannot earn a living, not to mention the defense attorney is hampered in his ability to fully and freely consult with the defendant to prepare a defense.
Obeying Bond Conditions
Bond conditions are zero tolerance. A defendant must obey bond conditions or risk being jailed again. Many defendants fail to understand that a judge can quickly return them to jail if bond conditions are violated.
Courts can monitor whether defendants obey their bond conditions in several ways. These include random drug and urinalysis testing, in-person visits with a bonding officer, and resetting cases monthly to make sure the defendant has not absconded.
Defendants may also have to engage in blood testing as a bond condition - again, the same kind of testing administered to many people who already have been convicted of a crime and are on probation. Drug tests can be administered by a probation officer upon your visit, or at a court appearance, or even may be demanded at any time for random testing.
Defendants who test positive for alcohol often claim that "mouthwash" or some other such non-alcoholic source caused the positive results. Judges have very short patience for such explanations. The bonding paperwork makes clear a defendant should not use mouthwash and lists other things to avoid false positives. Also, the levels of alcohol detected in testing almost always distinguishes alcohol from mouthwash.
Factors Influencing Bond Conditions
Many factors can influence bond conditions set by the court, starting with the nature of the criminal charge. Bond conditions can be more severe for crimes which are considered severe, such as aggravated assault, homicide, or child or adult sex assault.
Defendants who already have a criminal history may face stricter bond conditions as well. Defendants with no previous criminal history may be granted bond with fewer or less strict bond conditions.
Courts also consider whether a defendant poses a danger to the community if he or she is released on bond. Courts will consider whether a defendant, pending trial, is likely to repeat the crime for which he or she is charged.
In setting bond conditions, courts may also consider whether a defendant is actively employed and supervised, and if he or she has a family to support via such employment. A defendant who is gainfully employed and has a family to support may face fewer bond restrictions than one who does not.
Common Types of Bond Conditions
The types of bond conditions can vary widely, depending on the criminal charge. But some bond conditions can be fairly common among defendants. These are written out in documents given to the defendant and his attorney.
For instance, many defendants may face such common bond conditions as these requirements:
- Stay in the state of Texas until trial.
- Do not use any drugs prohibited by law or by the court (which even can include prescribed narcotics).
- Work at suitable employment.
- Report on a regular basis to a probation officer and notify such an officer of any address changes.
Defendants also may be required by bond conditions to:
- Not possess a firearm
- Not consume alcohol
Other Bond Conditions
Other bond conditions pertaining specifically to a charge can involve various other restrictions.
For instance, someone who's been charged with aggravated assault and is granted pre-trial release, or who has been convicted of aggravated assault and is granted release pending appeal, may face a bond condition to not communicate with the complainant and to keep a certain distance from them.
Or, if a defendant faces a driving while intoxicated felony charge, a pre-trial bond condition may require him or her to install a motor vehicle ignition interlock system in his or her vehicle. These are designed to prevent vehicle operation if a prescribed blood alcohol level has been exceeded.
Depending on the criminal charge, a judge may also set bond conditions such as curfews, violence counseling or substance abuse counseling.
Also, a defendant may be required to wear a GPS monitoring device to indicate his or her location at all times. Defendants even may be required to pay for the cost of such devices, which can be construed as an unfair bond condition.
Any unfair bond conditions can be challenged by a veteran criminal defense lawyer like Houston attorney Neal Davis. Just because a court issues bond conditions doesn't mean they are incontestable or final.
Challenging Unfair Bond Conditions
Again, pre-trial conditions of bond mean the defendant must obey certain bond conditions specified by the court or risk having his or her bond revoked and being returned to jail.
Many people fail to understand the importance of heeding such bond conditions, as well as the importance of challenging unfair bond conditions immediately if unfair conditions are imposed by the court. After you've signed the document stating your bond conditions, you cannot contest a subsequent arrest for violation of such conditions, even if the conditions are unreasonable.
Houston criminal defense attorney Neal Davis has years of experience successfully challenging unfair bond conditions and no bonds. He can challenge your bond conditions by citing excessive or unfair bond conditions as violations of your constitutional and statutory right to a reasonable bond.
For help with your case, please contact the Neal Davis Law Firm today for a legal consultation. We're here to help you 24/7, and to make sure that your legal rights are protected.
Additional reading: The Criminal Defense Guide to Bail & Bonds