What is a Conditional Release?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2018
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In the legal community, the term “conditional release” is used in several different ways. It can refer to the release of prisoners or people being held in custody under certain conditions. This term can also be used to discuss paperwork filed to release a lien or liability. In both cases, certain conditions must be met in order for the release to remain valid.

People in custody can be presented with a conditional release option to go free until they return to court for a trial. The release comes with conditions, such as orders not to leave the area or associate with certain people. Being released allows people to conduct their affairs while waiting for a trial.

Prisoners may be offered this type of release after they have served part of their sentences. Prisons have systems in place for rewarding prisoners who behave well, which ultimately culminate in a review to determine whether or not a prisoner is eligible for early release. Many institutions move prisoners through a series of steps or tiers, into progressively low-security areas that offer more freedom of movement and more activities. Those who remain on good behavior may be offered an early release if they agree to certain conditions, such as checking in with a parole officer.


Special conditional release programs are available to people with mental illness. People accused of crimes who plead not guilty by reason of insanity are committed to treatment facilities in order to receive psychiatric support. In some programs, they are released from these facilities and allowed to attend outpatient programs for treatment. Such programs provide more flexibility, in addition to more freedom of movement.

When it comes to legal paperwork, conditional release is a form that releases someone from liability, as long as certain conditions are met. A common example is a release that lifts a mechanic's lien. When people pay contractors, the contractors can provide a release to lift the lien on the condition that the check or other method of payment clears. These forms can also be used by companies that would like to reduce their liability for activities like skydiving and whitewater rafting. Clients of these companies must sign a waiver acknowledging the risks and releasing the company's liability before they take a trip.

This term comes up in another sense. People who are serving in the U.S. National Guard or Reserves who wish to switch to active duty can request a conditional release. This form releases them from their Guard or Reserves service on the condition that they are accepted as active duty service members. Processing such a release and the paperwork associated with joining as an active duty member of the military can take six months or more.


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