The Lone Star Review - State

Hays County Defense Attorney’s Keeping Jail Backlogged

PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in this publishing or on this website should be taken as legal advice

Hays County Defense Attorney’s Keeping Jail Backlogged

The Hays County Jail reports daily figures on the Hays County Government website. As of July 4, 2022, the County states its jail population is 679. Out of those figures, the County is reporting that 562 or 83% people are awaiting pre trial. However, 91.5% of the population, as a whole, is being held on a felony matter. This may be a pre trial or a conviction.

Hays County Jail Population Impacted by Defense Attorney’s
Hays County Jail Population, as of July 4, 2022, per Hays County Government Website

Essentially, the figures in the jail represent a very low level of misdemeanor holdings. Most people in the jail seem to be awaiting a felony pre trial or are serving time on a felony. Some may start to be concerned when they look at the average length of stay for pre trial matters. The figures indicate people are waiting 104 days on average.

Here is where the matter gets tricky for those that are unaware of available processes to reduce the length of stay for pre trial. People may begin to blame the District Attorney’s Office, but there are other matters at play which generate this number. Most of these resolutions can occur through the defense attorney assigned the case.

Imagine that, we all complain about the justice system and never really know what a defense attorney can file in court to speed up these holdings, or even speed up a case. Instead, people will blame areas of irrelevance or minimal importance in the projected situation.

People are in jail because some peace officer, somewhere in Hays County made an arrest. The District Attorney did not ask the peace officer to make an arrest. The District Attorney may even wait a long period of time before deciding to file a case. This is because a District Attorney is allowed to wait until the final day in the statute of limitations to file charges.

Does this mean people should be locked up in jail for that whole duration? Not at all, but it does mean the system needs better defense attorney’s. Why would we suggest the issue is on the defense attorney’s?

Defense Attorney’s Can File Evidentiary Hearing Requests for Felony Holdings

An evidentiary hearing, in the simplest terms, is a process where a defendant can challenge the evidence against him or her. The hearing is an entitlement for felony matters only and only when an indictment has not occurred.

A defense attorney can file these cases with the judge that issued the warrant for the arrest of the defendant. In a lot of cases, this may be the Justice of the Peace. This is where the tactics of a sound defense attorney may be beneficial. A Justice of the Peace cannot legally conduct an evidentiary hearing because the Justice of the Peace should not be issuing felony warrants. This is a matter we have published about in the past. It is why there are no case files by the Justice of the Peace’s for felony warrants. They hold these cases in a place separate from their court filings. This is a major issue.

But, lets say that a magistrate other than a Justice of the Peace filed the warrant and the warrant is filed in a proper venue. The defense attorney can request a hearing on the evidence and the District Attorney would have to show up to the hearing. People would have to argue the evidence in the case. People would not need to wait 104 days, on average for a hearing.

However, as simple as this concept is, we have been informed by at least one defense attorney in Hays County, that this person is unsure if Hays County even conducts these types of hearings. We can also say that we spoke to Judge Steel and these hearings do occur; however, he would not conduct one and he would refer someone to the Magistrate Judge. It is up to the defense attorney to decide if the magistrate judge or the issuing judge is where to go for the hearing. It is obvious this process is not being taken advantage of by defense attorney’s in Hays County.

Defense Attorney’s Can File Pre-Trial Habeas Corpus Petitions

Another item that defense attorney’s can do for people stuck in jail for excessive amounts of time is file a petition for habeas corpus relief. This is a process, where the State of Texas has generated a specific solution for what Hays County Jails are experiencing. The State of Texas has allowed for defendants to file motions or petitions due to unnecessary delay’s; such as, excessive wait time for the District Attorney’s Office to formally file charges.

Again, this simple process requires a District Attorney and the defendant to be present in front of a judge to discuss why the case is being delayed and attempt to determine if a bond should be reduced, or changed. The setting can also determine if the case should be dropped or dropped and refiled later.

However, the specifics of the processes are not articulated in this article. As we have stated, this should not be taken as legal advice. You should ask a defense attorney, but do not blame the District Attorney’s Office if you do not understand the process because someone else in government, or a defense attorney are saying its the District Attorney’s fault that people are in jail without formal charges.

A Couple of Our Other Reads

You may be interested in reading about our opinion on whether Justice of the Peace’s are actually allowed to issue felony warrants

Or you may enjoy learning about the candidates for the Hays County District Attorney’s Office.

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