Harris DA Delays Drug Pleas Until Lab Results Final
My friend over at Grits For Breakfast has a great post about the Harris County District Attorney’s new policy to not let prosecutors agree to a plea for a defendant accused of drug possession until the final results on the alleged drug are back from the crime lab. This is designed to stop innocent people from being pressured to taking a deal on a bogus case just to get out of jail quickly.
On the one hand, I’m glad they’re doing something to try to stop the immense pressure to cop to a bad case just to get out of jail. People in jail just want out and they’re often willing to do almost anything to get out – without carefully considering the ramifications to their lives down the line.
On the other hand, I often have clients who tell me they’re guilty and just want to move on with their lives. They have a job they’ll lose if they’re in jail for much more time, or an apartment they’ll lose, or kids to feed… With policies like this one, they’re stuck in jail until the crime lab gets around to their case – and that can be months.
I agree with Scott’s analysis – this policy could be unworkable without pretrial release or some other mechanism that keeps people from being stuck in jail while the crime lab tries to sift through a huge (and ever growing) stack of cases.
I’m not saying this is a bad policy. It’s certainly a start… but it’s not perfect, in my humble opinion.