Out on Bail: Pre-Trial Conditions in Dallas, Fort Worth, and North Texas
We’ve discussed being detained versus being arrested, and the process of getting out of jail on bail if you are arrested here in Texas.
Far too many people sit in jail here in Dallas, Fort Worth, and the rest of North Texas because they cannot make bail. That’s why there’s a big movement today for bail reform.
So, if you succeed in getting out of jail after you’ve been arrested, you’ve accomplished something that lots of other defendants have not. That’s good.
But there’s a catch. You’re not free. No. The law does not give you 100% freedom if you are released pending trial. You’re restricted. You cannot do just anything you want to do, or go where you’d like to go.
How much are your actions restricted?
That will depend in part upon the arguments made by your defense lawyer to the judge. It will also depend upon the statutory provisions that apply to your case (things like the Bail Reform Act of 1984 for federal arrests). The judge deciding your bail will also be interested in the details provided in the pretrial report. More on that in a bit.
So, when you are arrested, two things. Your first hurdle is getting Pre-Trial Release (bail, bond). Your next battle is minimizing your Pre-Trial Conditions.
What are Pre-Trial Conditions?
Texas has its set of pre-trial condition laws and there’s a different set of pre-trial conditions if you’ve been arrested on federal charges. In each system, they work the same way: they are requirements placed upon you while you’re waiting for trial and are free on pre-trial release.
If you don’t comply with these pre-trial conditions, then you can be arrested on a new charge: violation of the bail condition itself. So, it’s very important that you obey these conditions if you want to stay out of jail.
Pre-trial conditions are set based upon (1) the crime you have been accused of committing; and (2) the trial court.
Examples of Pre-Trial Conditions
What conditions are placed upon you during your time out on bail (bond) will be unique to you. For instance, if you are charged with an offense related to drunk driving, then you can bet the prosecutor is going to argue for an interlock on your car. If you have been busted for a felony drug crime, then you’re facing demands of random drug testing. Family violence charges? There may be conditions limiting your contact with your spouse and your children. There may be an order of no-contact with your wife or girlfriend.
Here are some of common pre-trial conditions placed on defendants pending trial:
- Random drug testing (urine, blood)
- Counseling (psychological)
- Electronic ankle monitor (so location can be checked 24/7)
- GPS monitoring (so movement can be followed in vehicle)
- Travel limitations (e.g., home and work only)
- No contact orders (forbidden to communicate with certain people)
- Interlock on vehicle (cannot start the car without breathing into machine, etc.).
There’s also reporting requirements. In Tarrant County, for example, all defendants must report to county Pretrial Services on a monthly basis. Misdemeanor defendants can report by mail. Felony defendants have to report in person.
If you don’t report into Tarrant County by the 15th of the month, then you’ve missed the deadline. They will consider you to have violated the reporting requirement. This can be the basis of an arrest warrant.
How Are the Pre-Trial Conditions Selected for Your Case?
Your life will be investigated here by someone whose job it is to complete “pre-trial reports” for the court. In the federal system, this is done pursuant to 18 USC Sections 3152-3154. In the Texas system, Articles 17.40 and 17.032 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure apply.
Under Art. 17.40, “reasonable conditions” may be imposed on defendants released on bail to insure the safety of the community or the alleged crime victim. Article 17.032 allows for other conditions to be placed on the defendant as the court deems necessary.
You can read a discussion of the federal system’s release pending judicial proceeding process here, in the United States Attorney’s Manual, Section 26:
What if You Violate a Pre-Trial Condition?
If you are caught violating a pre-trial condition, then an arrest warrant can be issued on that violation alone. Your bond will be revoked. The police will be coming to take you back to jail, where you will remain until trial.
What if you think you may have violated a pre-trial condition, but didn’t mean to do it? Your criminal lawyer can help you here, dealing with the defense of a pre-trial condition violation charge. The goal will be to keep you out of jail even if the prosecutor alleges a pre-trial condition has occurred.
Pre-Trial Supervision and Going Back to Jail
You’re going to be monitored while you are waiting for your trial. This is how the system makes sure you’re meeting those pre-trial conditions. You will have a file with your name on it, and there will be an officer who will be reviewing that file to make sure you’re doing what you are supposed to do.
It is this pretrial service officer who determines whether or not you have failed to meet a condition. If you fail a drug test, if your ankle monitor alerts, etc. — you’re risking losing your freedom and there is an employee assigned to make sure that the system is made aware of your violation.
Under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 17.40(b), there will be a hearing limited to determining if a pre-trial condition has been violated. You can have a defense lawyer here to advocate on your behalf.
If a violation is found, then the bond is revoked and an order issued that defendant must return to custody. Once the defendant is in custody, the law releases (discharges) any sureties on the bond from future liability.
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