Jail population swells with downtown Jacksonville courthouse opening delays

The fiasco in opening the new Duval County Courthouse in downtown Jacksonville isn’t just a public relations black eye for the city, it’s been grinding the justice system to a halt. The new courthouse is now set to open June 18 – though we’ll believe it when we see it. If it does, the court system will be been shut down for a month, far longer than the one week closure that had been planned. During that time, the population at the Duval County jail has seen its population increase as the system has come to a halt, according to a report on News4Jax. The television station reviewed inmate records and found last week, two weeks after the courthouse was supposed to be open, there were 3,742 inmates being held in the jail. That’s about 100 more than on the day the courthouse was supposed to open and left the jail just 10 percent from its maximum capacity, according to the news report. The State Attorney’s Office also told the television station that at least 30 jury trials had been postponed during the delay. Thousands of Jacksonville court dates and hearings had to be rescheduled, which will make for packed calendars during the first few weeks in the new building.

And while it can seem like some cases go on forever – and some clearly take longer than they need to – there are time constraints that must be followed. For instance, once a person is arrested, they must appear before a judge within 24 hours. That is not a problem here even with the courthouse situation – those appearances are held in a jail courtroom, also called “first appearance” or J-1) and were not affected here. Another crucial deadline is after 40 days. The state, if it files an extension, has no more than 40 days to file Jacksonville criminal charges against someone who is being held in jail. If charges are not filed, a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney can ask the court to release the inmate. If the state does indeed chose to file charges, prosecutors then have 175 days (about six months) to begin a trial, unless the defendant waives that right. Many defendants do, simply to allow for further negotiations and for the Duval County defense team to prepare for a trial, but there had to be at least a few speedy trial issues crop up in what’s now a month without any trials.

Our legal system is built around certain rights for people charge will crimes, and many of them have to do with specific lengths of time and deadlines. A significant slowdown or delay, as Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers are facing now, can cause major problems in making sure people’s constitutional rights are respected and not violated. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Trial Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.