Sadly, the American criminal justice system does not always operate as it should. Defendants get lost in the system and are sometimes incarcerated indefinitely. As just one example, a woman who was only supposed to be jailed for two days on drug charges ended up spending more than five months behind bars due to what has been called a “big screw up.”
The incident occurred in a county in Indiana. The defendant had been participating in a drug court treatment program. Last August, a judge ordered the 34-year-old woman to spend two days in jail because of a problem with a drug screen result that violated the terms of the drug court program.
The woman was originally represented by a public defender, but her he was removed from her case after she entered the drug court program. That attorney says he should have been notified when she allegedly violated the terms of the program. He added: “What should have happened is I should have been reappointed to the case. I had no knowledge that she was even back in jail.”
One of the reasons for that error is that the judge who ordered the woman’s two-day incarceration did so without conducting a hearing or providing her access to legal counsel. Instead of two days in jail, the woman served approximately 154 days in jail.
The error was only caught because a prosecutor happened to be reviewing old cases and questioned why the woman was still locked up. She has since been released and may choose to pursue a civil lawsuit against the county.
Mistakes like this are not supposed to happen. Unfortunately, defendants do not always understand their rights and can become victims of sloppy legal work by overburdened courts, judges and prosecutors.
If you are currently facing criminal charges for drugs or other crimes, please make sure you don’t slip through the cracks of the legal system by seeking the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Source: News and Tribune, “‘A BIG SCREW UP:’ Woman sentenced to two days in Clark County jail serves five months,” Gary Popp, Jan. 24, 2014