The purpose of bail is to make sure that someone released from custody before the trial and sentencing process is complete returns for all future court hearings. Depending on the severity of the charge -- as well as the accused's character, community ties, financial resources and prior criminal history -- a judge can deny bail, set a cash, property or bail bond, or set an unsecured appearance bond, also known as a signature bond.
A signature bond is common in cases where a defendant has no prior criminal history, is not considered a flight risk and has committed a minor or non-violent misdemeanor crime. Crimes that may fall into this category include vandalism, possession of small amounts of drugs, trespassing or driving under the influence.
Recognizance Bond vs. Signature Bond
Even though some people use the terms signature bond and recognizance bond interchangeably, these are actually two different things. According to BailBondsman.org, a recognizance bond refers to an accused who uses his own resources to pay a cash or property bail bond and is therefore released to his own authority.
In contrast, a signature bond usually has a monetary value attached to it, but does not require the accused to pay in advance. Instead, the amount represents the amount the accused will forfeit if the judge issues a warrant for missing any court dates.
Terms and Conditions
Although the monetary amount attached to a signature bond varies, most are for relatively small amounts. A judge often will refer to a predetermined bond schedule in setting the amount.
There also may be specific conditions of release attached to the signature bond. Some of the most common are a curfew, a sobriety order, restrictions on travel and refraining from possessing firearms.