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How long can someone sit in jail before being charged?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Constitutional rights apply to everyone in the United States. Even persons accused of heinous crimes in Mississippi have a right to due process, an attorney, and the ability to remain silent. The police must respect a suspect’s rights and follow the law. Holding someone in a jail cell for an excessive period without charging them could be a severe violation of the person’s rights.

Awaiting charges and languishing in jail

A September 2014 article noted that the ACLU took action in Mississippi when defendants sat in county jail for months awaiting a felony indictment. Such instances happen because criminal law statutes in Mississippi do not establish a maximum amount of time someone can spend in jail before facing a grand jury indictment.

Most states follow a 72-hour time limit, meaning police have that amount of time to file charges. Unless charged, the police must release the defendant. Laws may vary from state to state. Unlike California, where the police can only hold someone for 48 hours without charging them, Mississippi has no maximum time limits. Therefore, some defendants could languish in jail for months.

Asserting legal and constitutional rights

Criminal defense representation involves more than presenting evidence to support a not guilty verdict or plea bargaining to lesser charges. Representation provides a chance to assert the defendant’s constitutional rights. Among those rights is the right to a speedy trial.

An attorney may file a writ of habeas corpus, which requires the police to bring the defendant to court. During the court proceedings, a judge may decide whether the defendant is being lawfully held.

Unfortunately, the Constitution is ambiguous about the timeframe for a speedy trial and unlawful detainment. Regardless, a defendant may take legal action over unlawful detainment and civil rights violations.