U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Texas Woman Wrongly Jailed Wins Appeal

Last week, FindLaw's Chris Coble covered the story of the Texas woman who is suing the county for being falsely accused and jailed. The story was among the week's most popular on social media for FindLaw's consumer audience. This means, if you are a lawyer, this is the kind of case potential clients are reading.

Jessica Jauch certainly needed a lawyer when she got out of jail.

"Unjust and Unfair"

On April 26, 2012, Jauch was pulled over and then jailed on a drug charge in Choctaw County, Mississippi. She spent 96 days in jail without counsel or a chance to see a judge.

It turned out the charges were based on false statements, and she was released. Jauch then sued the county and the sheriff.

A trial judge dimissed the case, but the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The judges said it was "unjust" and "unfair," and the plaintiff will finally get her day in court.

"Heaping these consequences on an accused and blithely waiting months before affording the defendant access to the justice system is patently unfair in a society where guilt is not presumed," Judge Thomas Reavley wrote for the court.

The Court, the Counsel, and the Sheriff

It's not every day that judges blame the whole court system for a miscarriage of justice, but the Fifth Circuit was clear. The panel pointed the finger at the trial court, the district attorney and the sheriff.

"While he attempted to spread the blame to other officials, his actions and decisions are the cause of Jauch's constitutional injury," Reavley wrote. "Either Sheriff Halford is plainly incompetent, or he knowingly violated the law."

Cliff Johnson, a public interest attorney, told the Associated Press that the government must be accountable to the people it serves. "This type of deprivation of liberty is what you would expect to see in a Third World country," he said.

It's also the kind of case -- getting pulled over and thrown into jail -- that people fear all the time.

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