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What does "Bind over" Mean?

By Ken Black
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bind over is a term applied to the act of a court requiring a person to perform a specific action. Typically, that action is appearing in court for a hearing or trial. The order to bind over a person may include incarceration until the court date, but could also apply to a bond being set, which should encourage the individual to show up for the court date or forfeit the money. Typically, binding over means to hold in custody.

If a person has been convicted of a crime, the court also has within its jurisdiction to bind over for sentence, which is done to ensure the individual shows up for a sentencing hearing. If the court determines the individual needs to be incarcerated until the time of sentencing, then the court will apply credit for the time served awaiting sentencing. In most cases, only if a person has been convicted of a felony offense will they be incarcerated until judgment is pronounced.

Once a bind over order has been issued, there is little that can be done before the hearing in question to change it. If there is a substantial delay between the order and the scheduled hearing date, an attorney may file for a bond review hearing. That may allow a judge to change his or her mind and order bail, rather than keeping the accused or convicted individual in jail. Bond review hearings are very common in many jurisdictions, but do not always result in a change of circumstances for the defendant.

In nearly all cases, a bind over order is only issued when there is a chance that the defendant will fail to appear at a future court date. This risk may be due to the severity of crime, whether there has already been a conviction, the past history of the defendant, or a combination of those and other factors. Generally, the order signifies there is a likelihood the individual will be incarcerated for a period of time, if convicted of the charges in question, but that may not always be the case. If the defendant takes a plea deal, for example, there may be no prison or jail time involved at all.

After the defendant appears at the appropriate hearing the bind over order is void. If the judge issues no further orders regarding the disposition of the defendant, he or she is free to leave at the conclusion of the hearing. In some cases, another binding order may be issued, especially if the defendant has other court dates. In other cases, a sentencing order will take the place of the bind over order.

In some US states, the term bind over can also mean that a case is being transferred to a higher court. For instance, if charges were initially issued from a municipal or magistrate court but the crime committed was a felony, the case would be transferred to a district court, and the process of doing this is called binding over.

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Discussion Comments
By Glasis — On Feb 11, 2014
In addition to the severity of the crime and the other factors mentioned in the article, a judge will often consider the defendant's likelihood or ability to flee the jurisdiction when deciding on whether to hold the accused.

Factors that influence flight risk include the defendant's financial situation, as more affluent defendants may have the means to leave quickly and undetected, and whether the defendant has friends or family in other states or countries.

A suspect with little money and local ties is less likely to be held on bond.

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