, 14 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
This is a thread about time and the criminal justice system. We tend to think that the time of judges and lawyers is expensive. They’re professional people doing important things, so their time is scarce. We also tend to think that accused people tend to be poor...
...and perhaps unemployed. So their time isn’t afforded much value. This is a misconception. Wealth allows you to hire help, buy time-saving conveniences, etc.

This misconception causes the CJ system to be destructively cavalier with the time of the accused.
Prosecutors get continuances, cases move glacially at the convenience of public officials, judges end court at 3pm, all while people languish behind bars awaiting hearings. This causes a lot of harm. Case in point:
I’m in Louisiana to do some reporting. A public defender just told me about a current case involving guy arrested after a traffic stop. Thinking he had nothing to hide, the guy unfortunately gave cops permission to search his car. They found a single Oxy pill.
The guy had one previous conviction for drug possession, and was on probation. If he completed probation, his record would be expunged. If not, his felony charge would be reinstituted. His probation was going well, until this.
Thing is, the guy has a prescription for the pill. (He had previously fractured his pelvis.) He just didn’t have it with him at the time. He couldn’t obtain it from jail, so his attorney went to Walgreens w/ a release form. The pharmacist found no record of him filling the ....
... script there, but did find the Oxy script after checking the controlled meds database. He’d filled it at another store. But his attorney now had to get a different release to obtain the script from that store.

This was yesterday. The guy had been in jail for 35 days.
Why so long? Because prosecutors have 60 days after arrest to decide whether to bring charges. 60! If you can’t make bail, that’s a very long time, especially if you’re innocent.

This parish has several criminal court judges, but each only holds court every few weeks.
Your case can only heard by the judge assigned to it. By the time this guy’s lawyer got the script, it was too late to get in front of his judge. And the judge for his case doesn’t hold court again until late August. (July is for vacations!)
Prosecutors offered the guy no jail time if he’d plead to the Oxy. If he fought the charge, he’d win, but he’d be in jail another 60 days, which is a long time. He’d also likely lose his job and apartment. BTW, having a job and residence are both requireed while on probation.

So he pleaded guilty. So he could go home. Now his probation will be revoked, and he’ll be re-sentenced to an even longer probation. He’ll now have two felony convictions, and can’t attempt to have them expunged for at least 10 years.
Attorneys here tell me this isn’t uncommon. People would rather plead guilty to a crime they didn’t commit than linger in jail, waiting for the system to get around to discovering their innocence. Time, to them, literally means losing your kids, your job, your car, your home.
People arrested for pot possession can remain in jail for 2-3 times the maximum sentence for pot possession — merely while they wait on the state to decide whether to press charges.
Crazy footnote: In this same parish, a different ADA no longer even prosecutes low level possession cases, sensibly preferring to focus on violent crimes.

Which means this guy would likely have *no* record if he’d had the luck of simply drawing a different prosecutor. /end
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Radley Balko
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!