Recognizance – a person’s bond or obligation to the court to appear in court to enter a plea or stand trial in a criminal case

     This page is continued from Criminal Law Self-Help >>>> Stages of a Criminal Proceedings >>>> Bail:



1. A bond or obligation, made in court, by which a person promises to perform some act or observe some condition, such as to appear when called, to pay a debt, or to keep the peace; specifically, an in-court acknowledgment of an  obligation in a penal sum, conditioned on the performance or nonperformance of a particular act.  *  Most commonly, a recognizance takes the form of a bail bond that guarantees an unjailed criminal defendant’s return for a court date <the defendant was released on his own recognizance>.  See RELEASE ON RECOGNIZANCE. [1]

1. An obligation entered into before a court of record or duly authorized magistrate, containing a condition to do some particular act, usually to appear and answer a criminal accusation.  A term used interchangeably with bail bond in many statutes and court opinions. 8 Am J2d Bail § 2. [2]

1. A person’s obligation to the court to appear in court or to return to court to enter a plea or to stand trial in a criminal case.  It may take the form of a bail bond or an OR bond. [3]

     Excerpt from William R. Anson, Principles of the Law of Contract 80-81 (Arthur L. Corcin ed, 3d Am. ed. 1919):

     “Recognizances are aptly described as ‘contracts made with the Crown in its judicial capacity.’  A recognizance is a writing acknowledged by the party to it before a judge or officer having authority for the purpose, and enrolled in a court of record.  It usually takes the form of a promise, with penalties for the breach of it, to keep the peace, to be of good behavior, or to appear at the assizes.

     Excerpt from 1 Samuel Williston, A treatise on the Law of Contract § 6, at 18 (Walter H.E. Jaeger ed., 3d ed. 1957):

      “A recognizance is an acknowledgement of an obligation in court by the recognizor binding him to make a certain payment subject to the condition that the performance of a specified act the obligation shall be discharged.

personal recognizance:

1. The release of a defendant in a criminal case in which the court takes the defendant’s word that he or she will appear for a scheduled matter or when told to appear.  *  This type of release dispenses with the necessity of the person’s posting money or having a surety sign a bond with the court.

2. See bail bond. [1]

recognizor (16c) Someone who is obligated under a recognizance; one who is bound by a recognizance. — aka recognitor.

      Excerpt from John Indermaur, Principles of the Common law 8 (Edmund H. Bennett ed., 1st Am. ed. 1878):

     “A recognizance is an acknowledgement upon record of a former debt, and he who so acknowledges such debt to be due is termed the recognizor, and he to whom or for whose benefit he makes such acknowledgement is termed the recognizee.

recognizee (16c) 1. A person in whose favor a recognizance is made; one  to whom someone is bound by a recognizance. [1]

OR bond:

1. Abbreviation for own recognizance, it means “own bond” and relates to the circumstance in which a judge releases a criminal defendant on his promise to return to court for trial, rather than compelling him to post a bail bond.  OR release is also referred to as release on his own recognizance or ROR, personal recognizance, or OR bond. [3]

penal sum – the monetary amount specified as a penalty in a penal bond.


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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