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In some common law nations, a recognizance is a conditional obligation undertaken by a person before a court. It is an obligation of record, entered into before a court or magistrate duly authorized, whereby the party bound acknowledges (recognizes) that they owe a personal debt to the state. A recognizance is subject to a "defeasance"; that is, the obligation will be avoided if person bound does some particular act, such as appearing in court on a particular day, or keeping the peace. The concept of a recognizance exists in Scotland, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States. People who are released on their own recognizance are subject to appearing before a judge on a certain day in the near future.
Recognizances are most often encountered regarding bail in criminal cases. By filing a bail bond with the court, the defendant will usually be released from imprisonment pending a trial or appeal. If no bail has been set, the defendants are released "on their own recognizance". Release on recognizance is sometimes abbreviated as RoR, or, particularly in the United States, OR.
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