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No One Deserves 2 years in Solitary for a DWI

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 01, 2012 9:06 AM

Prison officials in Dona Ana County forgot about Stephen Slevin. They tossed him in a New Mexico jail cell and paid him little attention for two years.

During those two years, his mental health would deteriorate. He would receive little to no psychiatric treatment. He would have to pull his own tooth.

This all happened after Slevin was picked up for driving while intoxicated.

He was never convicted.

Though a jury has awarded Stephen Slevin $22 million, county officials are still not answering questions about why he never had a trial. Or how he ended up in solitary confinement for two years.

The most recent response comes from District Attorney Amy Orlando, who told KVIA-TV the following:

"Twenty-two months (in a detention center) for someone who has possible mental health issues is not unreasonable at all because we can't just say, 'Go back out on the streets.' They need treatment, they need help."

While this is true, persons with mental health issues are still entitled to a speedy trial under the 6th Amendment. Though the U.S. Supreme Court has never given a definite timeline, the New Mexico Supreme Court has come close. Under those guidelines, simple cases should be heard within 12 months. Slightly more complex cases, in 18 months.

A DWI case is a relatively simple prosecution.

And if that prosecution couldn't have gone forward because of Stephen Slevin's mental health, he was still entitled to a competency hearing before the court. That hearing happened 22 months after he was arrested, according to KVIA-TV. At that point, a judge dismissed the charges and had him civilly committed.

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