A person gets arrested, goes to jail, makes bail and gets released. Other than showing up for court, he’s got nothing to else to worry about, right? Unfortunately not, in many cases. In Texas, Chapter 17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure authorizes judges to set what are called bond conditions on a criminal defendant. Each of these conditions are things that the defendant must do, or must not do, or risk having their bond either revoked (taken away) or their bond amount raised, either of which can mean going back to jail.
These bond conditions fall into two categories, general and offense-specific. Let’s talk about general bond conditions first. General bond conditions are broadly-worded warnings from the judge to the defendant like “don’t break the law”, or “don’t use drugs without a prescription”, or “make all your scheduled court appearances”. Let’s say you are out on bail for offense X and then six weeks later you are arrested again for offense Y, well, the judge on offense X can revoke or raise your bail for that original case. That can mean another trip back to jail, and more money out of your pocket to get free.
General bond conditions don’t even have to be formally ordered by the judge to take effect. It is simply assumed that defendants know that if they break the law, use illegal drugs while out on bond, or skip out on court, they are putting their bond at risk. As the old saying goes, ignorance of the law is no defense.
While general bond conditions can apply to any type criminal charge, offense-specific bond conditions are, as the name says, linked to that particular offense. For example, an alcohol-related offense can trigger a bond condition that the defendant must use an ignition interlock device on their vehicle or must wear a SCRAM alcohol ankle monitor. White collar or financial crimes may trigger bond conditions to not hold other people’s money in trust or even handle money at a charity event. Family violence allegations can trigger a whole host of bond conditions such as being forbidden to possess firearms, to have no contact with the alleged victim of the offense, or even being subject to GPS monitoring.
And the list goes on and on. Computer crime? There can be a court order to stay off the internet. Crimes against a child? There can be an order to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18. The possibilities are almost endless. The law in Texas gives judges the ability to order any “reasonable bond condition” on a criminal defendant who is awaiting their ultimate day in court. Now, what some may see as reasonable, someone else may consider to be overly burdensome. So even though a criminal defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty, the experience of being a criminal defendant out on bond can sometimes not feel that way.