A criminal defendant awaiting trial who is considered likely to leave the area to avoid prosecution is considered to be a flight risk. There are several ways that a judge might determine this, including that person's ties to the community and past criminal history. If it is determined that the person may leave the area, a judge will usually release him only after he has paid bail. If it is determined that he is a probable flight risk, he may not be released until he has gone to trial.
Every court is different and so is every defendant. Because of this, determining whether a defendant is a flight risk is done on a case-by-case basis. Typically, for a defendant to be considered a flight risk prosecutors must show that he has no reason to stay around until trial.
A defendant with little or no ties to the area is considered to be more of a flight risk. If he does not work in, live in, or have family in the area or jurisdiction, he will often be considered more likely to flee. A person's ability and opportunity to flee also plays a part in determining this. For example, defendants who are able to get around easily, have the necessary funds to leave the state or the country, and have nothing to keep them in the area are often considered to be very likely to flee.
Past criminal history also plays a role in determining whether a person is a flight risk. Individuals with recent convictions are generally considered more likely to flee. Also, if a defendant failed to appear at past trial dates or fled to avoid prosecution in the past, courts will typically figure that there is a good possibility that he will fail to appear again.
The specific criminal charge and the amount of evidence against a person is also considered. Defendants facing criminal charges with long sentences have more reason to flee the area than others who have been charged with misdemeanors. They would have even more reason to flee if there was an abundance of solid evidence against them.
Many first-time offenders who are charged with misdemeanors are often deemed low flight risks. These defendants are usually released on their own recognizance, meaning that they are released on good faith. They are allowed to leave the custody of the law enforcement officials holding them, on the stipulation that they return for a future court appearance.
If it is determined by the court that a person may possibly flee the area, a judge will usually require him to pay a bail before he can be released. After paying the bail, he can then leave. If he fails to appear at their trial, he loses the money that he paid the court, but if he shows up he will get the money back. Most court systems require that defendants pay a large sum of money to ensure that they return for their court appearances. People with a history of not showing up for court appearances or those who are otherwise considered very likely to flee are often denied the chance to pay this bail, and they must remain in custody until their trial.