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Court ruling: Mississippi woman's rights were violated

A Mississippi federal appeals court recently ruled that a woman's constitutional rights were violated when she was jailed for 96 days without seeing a judge. The woman is now entitled to sue the sheriff and county that wrongfully held her for so long.

The appellate court overruled the lower court's decision, holding that Mississippi sheriffs have the duty to make sure those jailed appear before a judge expediently. The sheriff states that it is not he, but rather the state court circuit's two judges and district attorney, who should be held accountable for the woman's lengthy jailing.

The appellate court judge wrote in the decision that what happened was unjust and that the woman's prolonged pretrial detention rendered her unable to assert her constitutional rights. He also said that those facing allegations have the right to assert a timely defense and that defendants are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and treated accordingly.

After allegedly being forced to temporarily signing over custody of her daughter to her mother and waiting 96 days to see a judge, the woman was granted bail and ultimately cleared of the underlying drug charge against her. Both the sheriff's lawyer and the woman's lawyer have declined to comment.

As of July 1, Mississippi has implemented new rules of criminal procedure which will hopefully prevent indigent people from waiting in jail without bail or a defense lawyer. The rules state that those arrested before indictment must appear before a judge within two business days and those arrested after indictment are entitled to an indictment within 30 days. Those arrested in Mississippi for a misdemeanor, felony or any criminal charge should seek the advice of an attorney who can ensure that their rights are protected and that they are provided with a strong criminal defense.

Source: KSL.com, Appeals court: Mississippi woman's 96 days in jail 'unfair', Jeff Amy, October 25, 2017

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