Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Inmate Turns Himself in After Accidental Release From County

An amazing story unfolded last week in San Francisco. Victor Rodriguez, a twenty-year-old inmate, was released from San Francisco County Jail last Wednesday -- on accident! After a few days on the lam and after the story started getting press, Mr. Rodriguez did turn himself in to authorities.

Apparently, the accident that provided Rodriguez with the free pass occurred when the court clerk erroneously dismissed all charges. That clerk better have a V8 next time. Rodriguez had been charged with additional crimes since his arrest and when the judge sought to dismiss the new charges only, the clerk accidentally dismissed the whole case.

Inmate Questioned Release

Rodriguez was puzzled when sheriff deputies began to process him for release last week. He questioned the officers and stated that he thought there was a mistake being made. Deputies explained that the paperwork said he was getting released and that they do what the papers say. When the clerk entered the dismissal into the system, it set off a series of automated processes that instructed the sheriff's office to release Rodriguez.

When Rodriguez spoke to local news via telephone, he explained that the negative press about him relating to this incident was untrue. Although he explained that he planned to turn himself in on Friday night, it didn't actually happen until Saturday morning. Given the circumstances, that seems pretty reasonable.

Does Double Jeopardy Apply?

A question that some might wonder is whether Double Jeopardy applies in a situation like this. Double Jeopardy is the legal doctrine that prevents the government from prosecuting a person for the same crime twice. Double Jeopardy will only apply after criminal charges have been brought and either the first witness is sworn in or a jury is impaneled. Neither of these situations had occurred in Rodriguez's matter. Additionally, in plea deals, jeopardy doesn't apply until the court accepts the plea deal.

Generally, courts are allowed to correct the clerical errors they make. While Rodriguez got a few days on the outside, failing to turn himself in could have resulted in serious charges being brought against him, despite the court having fumbled.

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