Are all offenders treated the same? Some countries that practise common law allow what is known as recognizance or recognisance. Let’s take a look at what it is and what are some of the examples.
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Recognizance comes from an Old French word that means ‘recognize’. Recognizance or recognisance is the practice of entering assurance or guarantee before a court of law for an action to be performed in the future or a promise to uphold. It is basically a commitment to do something that the court requires of a person. Failure to abide by court orders results in the court moving to seize certain property or cash belonging to the defendant, denial of future bail and/or immediate arrest.
In criminal cases, the court may require an accused person to abide by peace in a situation. They may be asked to not disturb their surroundings or the people involved in the case, as well as not cause trouble for law enforcement. This is called entering into a recognizance. A heavy fine and stricter punishment may be given if the individual breaks the trust of the court. Besides defendants, witnesses may also be asked to enter into a recognizance to ensure they appear before the court in a case.
Civil (and sometimes criminal courts) may grant conditional freedom to certain accused people. The individuals are required to not be arrested or put in jail until their trial but are to present themselves in front of the court on an appointed date and time. As surety for their future appearance, they may be required to submit a written promise that they will abide by the court orders, with consequences if they fail to do so. This sort of partial release that is granted to defendants is known as released on his own recognizance (RoR), personal recognizance (PR) or own recognizance (OR) and does not require paying bail money or posting a bond.
In civil cases, the individual may be liable to pay the debt, insurance, damages, or interests to the plaintiff as per the recognizance as well.
Some similar words for recognizance are:
Recognizance vs Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the act of scouting, investigating or exploring an area, generally for military purposes. The purpose may be to gather information about enemy barracks, enemy trenches, or other installations before taking any military action. It can also be to understand the lay of the land beyond one’s own military establishments for expansion. Reconnaissance can also be carried out as part of a geological or environmental survey to get a better idea of the land under research. It is very different from recognizance, which is a security or surety entered before a court as a promise to do something.
Recognizance is used in legal settings, whereas reconnaissance is commonly used in military or geological settings.
When Can Own Recognizance Be Granted To The Defendant?
A judge may grant recognizance to a defendant after considering multiple factors. These include:
- The past record of the offender: If the offender habitually breaks the law and causes trouble for the society and the law enforcement, he may be denied conditional release under OR.
- The seriousness of the offence: Granting OR is mostly determined by the seriousness of the offence committed by the defendant. An individual is likely to get OR in one-time, misdemeanour cases but might find it difficult to convince the judge to grant him conditional release if charged with a felony.
- The risk to the public: If the defendant is charged on multiple counts of grave crimes, or is liable to cause serious harm to the public, he or she may be denied release on own recognisance.
- Social ties: If the suspect has such social obligations as will be greatly hindered by his incarceration or temporary lock-up, he may be granted OR, given all other conditions are satisfactorily met. Some defendants may have certain family or community ties that will make it difficult for them to leave the area, for example, a job, a spouse or children.
Recognizance in court can be granted on a number of occasions. Some examples are:
- An individual was stopped by police for driving under influence. Their tax records are up to date and they have no other tickets against their name. The defence can plead for recognisance from the court, which may grant a release on own recognisance. The court may require the defendant to give up his car in the meantime.
- Person X was taken to court by Person Y to pay for claims for damages while Person X was renovating his property. The court gives the decision in favour of Person Y and asks X to repay them the damages. Person X may request a recognizance for two months, in which time he will make the necessary financial arrangements to return the money to Y.
- An individual is released on their own recognisance from the court on the condition that they will attend 2 months of mandatory rehab for their drug addiction.
- The defendant is granted their own recognizance in a shoplifting case because it was their first time. They must pay in damages to the shop and are not allowed to visit again for a certain period of time.
- The court grants OR to a defendant on the ground that they will carry out community work for 5 weeks in the local shelter.
Granting recognizance can result in travel restrictions, curfews, or reporting to a supervisory officer, or other conditions that a defendant is liable to fulfil as part of the OR.
A ‘recognisance’ is the same as ‘recognizance.’ Recognisance can be granted either in a civil or a criminal case.
To conclude, a recognisance is a type of bail that does not involve money. It is only a signed promise, granted in special cases and relies upon the judge’s discretion.