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Escaping Jail, the Legal Way! Recent Updates to Indiana’s Pre-Trial Release Rules

Most of us are familiar with the tale of the inmate who successfully escapes a prison by slowing chiseling his way out of his cell with a file or a spoon that was lovingly baked into a cake by a family member.  Usually, by the end of the tale, law enforcement has secured the inmate back in his cell and he is left to serve the rest of his sentence thinking about those glorious moments of stolen freedom.  However, many individuals who are incarcerated and have not had a trial typically find that freedom (at least until trial) is only a bond payment away.

Individuals who are arrested for many types of crimes, but who have not yet gone to trial, are presumed to stay in jail for the duration of their case unless a court orders their release.  The purpose of this presumption is to ensure that: (1) arrested individuals will be present for all their required hearings; (2) they will not harm other individuals (like alleged victims or witnesses); and (3) they will not harm “the community.”  However, courts can order individuals released in several ways.  A court can order someone released on their “own recognizance” (OR’d), or a court can order someone released when they pay a bond, usually to the county clerk’s office.  In both situations, the court is attempting to ensure that the arrested individual will show-up to court and will not harm anyone.  An individual released on their own recognizance is allowed to leave jail on their promise that they will meet those expectations.  Typically, being OR’d is reserved for low level offenses or for those individuals not likely to reoffend while out of custody pending trial.

Individuals charged with higher level offenses are typically required to pay a cash bond or a surety bond if they want to be released before trial.  Cash bonds require the arrested individual to pay the amount ordered.  If the person shows up to their hearings and is not charged with any new crimes, they can typically have their bond refunded.  As an example, a court may order a $500 cash bond.  The arrested individual can pay that amount directly to the clerk’s office and may get most or all of that money back after the case is over and they have successfully met the terms of the bond.  Surety bonds require a person to pay, usually, 10% of the total bond to a bail bondsman and then the bail bondsman will be responsible for the remaining balance in the event the arrested individual does not show up to court (and for producing the individual if the court orders).  For example, if a court orders a $50,000 surety bond, the arrested individual will have to pay $5,000 to a bail bondsman and the bail bondsman would be required to pay the entire $50,000 if the arrested individual did not show up to court.  Many counties have their own bond schedules that outline what type and how much bonds will be for different levels of offenses.  Marion County’s bond schedule can be found on page 13 of the Marion County local rules: https://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/marion-local-rules.pdf.

More recently, on September 7, 2016, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an Order adopting a new rule that encourages courts to allow more individuals out on their own recognizance in order to: (1) reduce pretrial detention expenses for local jails and enable many arrestees to return to their jobs and provide support for their families; (2) eliminate the unfair and often protracted incarceration of poor people who do not have the resources to purchase a bail bond or pay a bail deposit; (3) enhance the reliability of guilty pleas; and (4) realize the benefits of reduced recidivism and enhanced public safety that flow from the use of evidence-based risk assessment tools for pretrial release decisions.  As the Order will likely have significant impact on pretrial release practices, a few counties have been selected to serve as pilot projects and prosecutors have made their opinions known about these projects.

If you have an outstanding criminal matter, contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.