Judge's 'Screw-Up' Turns Woman's 2-Day Jail Sentence Into 154 Days
An Indiana woman who was supposed to spend just two days in jail wasn't released until five months later. Now a lawsuit may soon be filed over what the court called "a big screw-up."
In what was supposed to be a "slap on the wrist," Destiny Hoffman, 34, of Jeffersonville, was sentenced to just 48 hours behind bars -- but because of a judge's error, she actually served 154 days before being released Thursday, the News and Tribune reports.
What happened to keep this woman in jail for so long past her release date, and will she be able to sue over the error?
Judge Picks Bouquet of Oopsy-Daisies
Destiny Hoffman was called before Judge Jerry Jacobi in August for problems with her court-ordered drug diversion program. Like many defendants in these programs, Hoffman was subject to scheduled drug tests, and had violated the program's terms by providing a "diluted drug screen result," the News and Tribune reported.
Judge Jacobi sentenced Hoffman to 48 hours in jail for violating the program, ordering the Clark County Sheriff's Office to hold her "until further order of the court."
But the problem was, Judge Jacobi didn't issue a release order for Hoffman after 48 hours. In fact, according to the News and Tribune, Judge Jacobi never issued that order.
Ironically, Hoffman's seemingly unlimited jail sentence was cut short by a keen-eyed prosecutor, who noticed just last week that Hoffman was still in jail and quickly filed civil rights motions to free her.
The judge who released Hoffman on Thursday called her incarceration "a big screw-up," the News and Tribune reports.
Whoops, Due Process Needed
Whether you're being fired by the government or being hauled into jail for a probation violation, the U.S. Constitution entitles you to procedural due process. Typically this means some sort of formal hearing before a judge or neutral administrative body who will review a person's case and allow him or her to present arguments in his or her defense.
In Hoffman's case, she was not given any sort of hearing before Judge Jacobi's sentence was imposed, and even worse, she was not represented by an attorney -- violating her right to counsel.
According to the News and Tribune, Hoffman's public defender expects this case "will result in a lawsuit for [Clark County]." And with these major alleged violations of civil rights, she's likely to win. Although it can often be an uphill battle to sue the government for false imprisonment, an egrigious case like Hoffman's is primed for success.
In a bit of good news, the News and Tribune reports that Hoffman's public defender expects she will be released from drug court and have her charges dropped.
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