Bail in criminal cases is a guarantee that the defendant will return to court. What this means is that a person gives money to the court as security that they will return to court for all future hearings. If the defendant does not show up, the defendant forfeits the money. If the defendant shows up, bail is exonerated and the money will be given back.
In California, when a person is arrested for driving under the influence, they will generally be held until they sober up, cited, then released without having to post any bail. This is called being released on your own recognizance, or O.R. This is typical where it is a first time misdemeanor DUI, there was a low BAC, there were no injuries to others or accident, or where the circumstances of the DUI were otherwise inconsequential.
However, a defendant may be required to post bail even in misdemeanor DUI cases. This is more likely to happen in cases where the circumstances of the DUI make it more serious such as having involved an accident, a high BAC, injury to others, or if it was not the defendant’s first DUI.
Felony DUI’s will almost always require the defendant to post bail. Bail amounts are usually set by a county bail schedule. Orange County’s current felony bail schedule sets bail for a felony DUI at $50,000.
Recently, I’ve found that many courts will release DUI defendants on their own recognizance subject to specific conditions. For DUI cases, the typical condition of O.R. is attending AA meetings up to four times a week. Judges will often require the defendant to bring proof of attendance at AA meetings to future hearings.
Last week I was in court and I overheard a case where the defendant granted O.R. on the condition that the defendant attends four AA meetings per week, the defendant not drink any alcohol, the defendant not visit any bars, and that the defendant not drive.
It is almost as if the defendant was found guilty of driving under the influence and these are the terms of probation. The difference is that, with conditions of O.R., the defendant is not yet guilty. The case could be dismissed or the defendant found not guilty and he or she would have still had to fulfill these terms up until that point which could take months.
What ever happened to “Innocent until proven guilty?”