Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Number arrested with no charges filed closer to 2% than half, as claimed in Rothgery case

Well, I've got a little more clarity and some data on the question of how many Texans are jailed without charges being filed, but it doesn't seem to be as high as attorney Greg Coleman claimed last week arguing before SCOTUS in the Rothgery case. Coleman told the court "it may happen in half of the cases, where an individual is arrested, magistrated, released, and no official charges are ever brought." An attorney friend who'd read all the briefs and closely tracked the case clarified Coleman's reference:

Coleman is talking about cases in which no indictment is filed, which is different than no charges being filed. He consistently conflated those 2 concepts during his argument and briefing. Ds may be arrested and released without charges w/in 48 hours of arrest, but once they are brought before a magistrate they are accused of a crime, usually via a preliminary charging document such as a complaint.
That clears things up somewhat, but even defining "charges" as "indictments" (an "information," for misdemeanors), which does indeed conflate the two terms, I can't find any data supporting Coleman's assertion that such cases represent half of arrests. The closest on-point estimate I'm aware of came from a 2005 study (pdf) performed by the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M on behalf of the Texas Indigent Defense Task Force (see pp. 28-29):
Since implementation of the FDA’s prompt appointment standard [for jail cases], there exists a widespread perception that counties incur significant costs for attorney’s fees in cases where no charges are filed. Objective data reported by Texas counties in their annual Expenditure Report demonstrates that this concern is greatly exaggerated. In FY 2004, 55% of Texas counties (140 of 254) had zero cases in which an attorney was appointed in a case where the defendant was never charged by information or indictment. At a statewide level, “un-filed” cases represented 2% of all cases in which attorneys were appointed to indigent defendants

So where does this figure come from that as many as half of arrests never result in an information or indictment? No source I can find confirms that, but I'll keep looking.


Anonymous said...

Off the subject Grits but I need your help.How can I find out when a person's court date is.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The shortest distance between two points is to go to the county courthouse to the criminal division, felony or misdemeanor depending on which is it, and look up their file. Depending on if it's a big or small county the cases will either be indexed in a computer or in smaller counties, in enormous books that roll out of big, special-made shelves. Once you have the case number, just ask the clerk to look at the file and all the info you need will be there. Typically, in my experience courthouse personnel everywhere, even in the biggest counties, are very helpful, so if you get up there and you're confused, ask for assistance.

Anonymous said...

If a person is arrested on a bench warrent (traffic, failure to pay a fine or penalty, etc) but after appearing in front of the judge he is released for time served, would that possibly count as a case where the defendant had no charges filed - especially if the bench warrant were automatically generated by a computer system (if that is how it is done when one fails to pay the state the penalty required by some statute)?

Just a thought.