Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How long should cops get to jail people without charges?

Here's a messed up story for you. If you've been arrested in Dallas but police haven't told you why, for the past quarter century officers had three business days to "to figure out what to charge an arrested person with and get the paperwork in, not including the day you were actually arrested," according to Amy Silverstein at the Dallas Observer's UnFair Park blog (July 1):
Sure, you can bond out of jail much sooner than three days if you have the money. Giving the cops a deadline, however, helps ensure that all defendants get treated fairly, at least according to the district judges who created and upheld the rule in the first place. "It's just saying you can't hold someone in jail without a case file," explains Judge Rick Magnis, who as presiding judge of the Dallas Criminal Courts has tweaked the three-day rule slightly over recent years, allowing a full 10 days for crimes like murder and assault.

But [in June], the Dallas Police Department famously released a bunch of inmates who weren't supposed to go free, and now Chief David Brown is blaming that deadline policy as part of the problem.

The policy, officially called the dry writ, is putting "a real strain" on officers, Brown told City Council ...
The police department has brought up the same concerns to the District Attorney's Office. "They have expressed to us that they need more time to properly investigate and file cases," county prosecutor Ellyce Lindberg tells Unfair Park in an email.
DPD and Dallas DA Craig Watkins' office want to extend their deadline from three to seven days for all felonies, reported the Dallas News (July 10)  Even if cops miss the deadline, noted Silverstein:
That doesn't mean the cases against those inmates go away. Cops can still take their sweet time to file the charges, even with the inmates out of jail. The deadline is just a way to keep the county from holding broke people in jail indefinitely while cops figure out exactly what those charges are. It's for that reason that defense attorneys say the deadline policy as it stands is a sensible one.

"People that cannot afford to bond out are entitled to get their accusations that they face against them in a timely manner, not just sit there and wait for them to do it at their own leisure," says criminal defense attorney Jose Noriega, describing Brown's recent complaints about the policy as "disingenuous".

It's true that other counties in Texas are more lenient than Dallas, allowing cops more time to hold suspects before filing cases. But outside of the state, the rules are often more favorable to the suspects. In New York State, for example, suspects must be arraigned within 24 hours after their arrest thanks to a 1990 court ruling.
The suggestion that "other counties in Texas are more lenient than Dallas," it should be noted, is not universally accurate. In Houston, for example, charges are filed in a much more timely fashion. Indeed, according to our pal at the blog Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, an officer must phone the on-call Assistant DA assigned to intake, describe the incident and get agreement about the proposed charge up front before even making an arrest. Then, a judge is available 24-7 and defendants are informed of the charges at a probable cause hearing that usually occurs less than 24 hours after being booked into the jail. Austin and El Paso also process cases much more rapidly on the front end.

According to the Dallas News (June 29), though, some other counties allow even longer waits than Dallas:
Fort Worth police, for example, take suspects to their jail and then Mansfield’s jail until the county accepts the charge. The jail charges the department for holding inmates for more than five days without filing criminal charges, Fort Worth police spokesman Sgt. Raymond Bush said. ...

Collin County Sheriff’s Lt. John Norton said the department will notify judges if no formal charges have been filed on felony suspects within 60 days. For misdemeanors, the time frame is 15 days or 30 days, depending on severity.

Bexar County requests case files within 20 days. But it’s not a hard-and-fast deadline, said Cliff Herberg, the county’s first assistant district attorney.
Even so, Dallas' presiding District Judge Rick Magnis told the News (June 23) that
the time-limit policy is “what makes America, America.”

“The law is real simple,” Magnis said. “The Constitution in America says you can’t hold people without charges.”
This is an example of inefficiencies at the beginning of the process creating extra costs throughout the system, from an over-full jail to bloated court dockets. If much-larger Harris County can figure this issue out, there's absolutely no reason Dallas police and prosecutors need seven days to work out charges in routine cases.


Anonymous said...

Police state wanting to hold its own citizens without cause , or take their time to make something stick.. Dallas police needs extra time for everything like , shooting citizens.. Now they want to hold citizens until they see fit .police state .habeas corpus !!! Formally charge them then arrest them.. instead they arrest you then investigate whats going on here?

Tom Moran said...

some years ago, the Supreme Court held it was a fourth amendment violation to hold someone more than 48 hours without a judicial determination of probable cause. Justice Scalia went nuts. He said 48 hours was way too long and it should be 24 hours.
Don't remember the name of the case but the defendant was Riverside County, California, and it came out in the 90s.
I guess it takes a while for the word to get to Dallas County but I sure would like to be the lawyer representing the next guy who is held for three days without a judicial determination of probable cause. I'm about to retire and could use a big influx of cash.

Tom Moran said...

The case is County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991). Given the slow communications between Washington and Dallas County (the Pony Express is slow), I guess 23 years is a reasonable time for Dallas to get the word.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit confused. Is this deadline for probable cause/magistration or for filing the case with the DA? I was under the impression that anyone arrested had to see a magistrate within 24 hours.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:27 I am a babe in the woods like you, despite thinking that I'm pretty sophisticated in criminal justice--guess I am just as dumb as anyone, too much learning from TV shows.

I thought it was 24 hours. Sure ought to be. The police I know like to lock everybody up and keep them there.

Shocked and embarassed that I didn't know this.

Prison Doc

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@11:27, they're supposed to see a magistrate within 48 hours according to Art. 15.17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and at that time the magistrate is supposed to "inform in clear language the person arrested ... of the accusation against him".

IANAL so I don't understand how they're getting around that, nor why the SCOTUS case Tom Moran cites wouldn't require them to expedite charges more quickly. I'd welcome any informed opinions or even educated guesses on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Art. 17.033. RELEASE ON BOND OF CERTAIN PERSONS ARRESTED WITHOUT A WARRANT. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), a person who is arrested without a warrant and who is detained in jail must be released on bond, in an amount not to exceed $5,000, not later than the 24th hour after the person's arrest if the person was arrested for a misdemeanor and a magistrate has not determined whether probable cause exists to believe that the person committed the offense. If the person is unable to obtain a surety for the bond or unable to deposit money in the amount of the bond, the person must be released on personal bond.

(a-1) Expired.

(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c), a person who is arrested without a warrant and who is detained in jail must be released on bond, in an amount not to exceed $10,000, not later than the 48th hour after the person's arrest if the person was arrested for a felony and a magistrate has not determined whether probable cause exists to believe that the person committed the offense. If the person is unable to obtain a surety for the bond or unable to deposit money in the amount of the bond, the person must be released on personal bond.

(c) On the filing of an application by the attorney representing the state, a magistrate may postpone the release of a person under Subsection (a), (a-1), or (b) for not more than 72 hours after the person's arrest. An application filed under this subsection must state the reason a magistrate has not determined whether probable cause exists to believe that the person committed the offense for which the person was arrested.

(d) The time limits imposed by Subsections (a), (a-1), and (b) do not apply to a person arrested without a warrant who is taken to a hospital, clinic, or other medical facility before being taken before a magistrate under Article 15.17. For a person described by this subsection, the time limits imposed by Subsections (a), (a-1), and (b) begin to run at the time, as documented in the records of the hospital, clinic, or other medical facility, that a physician or other medical professional releases the person from the hospital, clinic, or other medical facility.

(e) Expired.

Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 906, Sec. 5(a), eff. Jan. 1, 2002. Subsec. (d) added by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 298, Sec. 1, eff. June 18, 2003.

Amended by:

Acts 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1350 (H.B. 1173), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2011.

Anonymous said...

All Dallas inmates are magistrated and a probable cause affidavit and warrant obtained at book in. Magistrates are on duty 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The "dry writ" deadline is for filing the case with the Dallas DA's office.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Gotcha, 8:40, which is probably why Harris does things so much quicker - a prosecutor is involved on the front end before arrests are even made.

This sounds like one of those moments where DPD figured "never let a crisis go to waste." Their computer software fouled up but instead of fixing the problem they want to institutionalize delays.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, thanks for another very informative piece.

Texas - a State of Confusion & Land of the Loopholes. We have a long running in-your-face, disgraceful History of Ignoring the Constitution as a whole, especially a lil thang called the Bill of Rights.

When: the law enforcement, the courts and those choosing a career in the criminal defense niche 'collectively' decide to 'Rig' the system in a manner that knowingly & willingly violates Rules imposed to keep everything on the up & up and the people don't give a rat's ass unless it directly affects them - we (even those of us that oppose Rigging) get what we deserve.

When we allow them to tweak it in the dark, and with 254 counties not being mandatorially in sync, we allow for this very type of state-wide creative chaos.

It impairs or, prevents tourism by Texans in the know, as it ensnares the unsuspecting in order to put money in corrupt and bankrupt coffers due to the majority simply paying fines & fees - Guilty or Not. How sad of a state is it when folks don't want to drive three hours away due to speed traps and gypsy cops with cleansed backgrounds roaming / hunting for dollars.

Now, who do we talk to right now (today) about getting all 254 counties to recognize and respect the Constitution (the Bill of Rights)? Remember if you vote without vetting (asking questions and getting answers) you get what you vote for. Those thinking that voting and inconsistent laws are off topic, can't be helped. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Grits, DPS is up to their shenanigans again. Taking all your fingerprints with no legislative justification to do so. Article is in the DMN.

Eliseo Weinstein said...

I can't believe that the police can arrest and put someone in jail without having charges filed and enough evidence that they committed a crime. I can understand holding someone if they truly believe they have committed a crime but what about the innocent people? This is really unfair and against people's rights to be held when they haven't done anything. I guess I can see both sides, but people's rights have to be protected.