Arguing Against Conditions of Release

If you are in custody, the Court may impose conditions of your release, even if you are released on your own recognizance – i.e. without bail. The conditions of release are supposed to be imposed for the purposes of ensuring your appearance at future court dates and for public safety reasons.

The following are common conditions of release that may be imposed by the Court: no use of controlled substances or the consumption of alcohol, submitting to random chemical or substance testing, enlisting in chemical or alcohol monitoring programming, electronic home monitoring, limitations on travel, no contact with specific individuals, a stay away from a specific place (which can include your primary residence), and no right to possess any weapons or firearms. What’s often not considered until the conditions are put in place is that some of them require a time commitment (such as taking time off work to comply with a demand for a random chemical use test) and can be expensive.

In determining which conditions to impose, the rules state that the Court should look at the following factors:

  1. the nature and circumstances of the offense charged;
  2. the weight of the evidence;
  3. family ties;
  4. employment;
  5. financial resources;
  6. character and mental condition;
  7. length of residence in the community;
  8. criminal convictions;
  9. prior history of appearing in court;
  10. prior flight to avoid prosecution;
  11. the victim’s safety
  12. any other person’s safety; and
  13. the community’s safety.

The Court may even order for a pre-release investigation to be performed by probation services before deciding on the conditions to impose.

Far too often, though, it appears that courts impose conditions as a matter of course, without taking a case-specific look as is appropriate. For instance, I had a client facing a single count of misdemeanor domestic assault get straddled with a litany of conditions of release, including, no use or consumption, and no right to possess any weapons or firearms. Exactly why these conditions – among others – were imposed is unknown since neither alcohol nor weapons were involved in the underlying allegations, he does not have any alcohol-related offenses in his criminal record, and he doesn’t even own any weapons. If ever there was a situation where the Court imposed standard conditions for certain types of cases, this was it.

Thankfully, the Minnesota Supreme Court has admonished a district court for imposing a drug-testing condition as a matter of practice. State v. Martin, 743 N.W.2d 261 (Minn. 2008). This case should be used when Courts do the same for you. In the case I described above, at our first appearance after my client retained me, we argued for the no consumption of alcohol condition to be removed and the Court waived it (we didn’t care about the weapons one since he doesn’t have any).

What’s important for you to understand is that your conditions of release must be reviewed by the Court upon any party’s request. If you find yourself strapped with unreasonable and unbearable conditions of release, you should seek to have them waived. Or you may just argue for a condition to be modified, such as having costs waived by order of the Court. Whatever the case, you should fight when appropriate to limit the conditions imposed on your release.