A class action lawsuit alleges Santa Clara County, Calif. has wrongfully employed a policy of keeping individuals incarcerated for several days after the county district attorney’s office has declined prosecution.
A proposed class action lawsuit alleges Santa Clara County, California has wrongfully employed a policy of keeping individuals incarcerated for several days after the county district attorney’s office has declined prosecution and thereby ended the legal basis for incarceration.
The 16-page lawsuit says that while the DA’s decision against prosecution is “immediately available” to Santa Clara County, meaning the county should therefore immediately release a person being held, the county does not.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff is one such individual who was detained for “over two days” after the DA declined to prosecute him. According to the complaint, the county has detained others for as many as six days after the Santa Clara County District Attorney has opted against prosecution.
“Santa Clara County’s failure to release individuals it has no legal basis to detain constitutes a gross violation of individuals’ due process rights,” the lawsuit alleges, claiming the county “routinely ignores and violates” the basic due-process principle that the government must release an individual from custody is there exists no basis to detain them, or the basis for detention has ended.
According to the complaint, Santa Clara’s violations are “systemic,” and the county has failed to implement “the most basic procedures” to ensure individuals are promptly released from jail once the DA declines prosecution. Although the county maintains electronic systems that make the immediate release of non-prosecuted detainees both “feasible and possible,” Santa Clara County has nevertheless and without legal basis kept those with no pending criminal charges “until the night of their prescheduled first appearance date,” which may come as many as six days after the DA declines prosecution, the lawsuit says.
“The County’s failure to put in place policies and procedures to ensure prompt release constitutes deliberate indifference under civil rights law,” the suit contends.
According to the lawsuit, once an arrested person’s initial appearance in court has been scheduled and booking is complete, the arresting agency creates for the individual a packet that consists of a probable cause affidavit, police report and complaint. This packet is then forwarded to the county DA, who, after reviewing the packet, will decide whether to prosecute the arrested individual, the suit says. If the DA declines prosecution, this information will be entered into the county’s Criminal Justice Information Control system, to which the county sheriff has access, the case states.
The suit alleges that although the county sheriff has immediate access to the system and can immediately determine that the DA has declined to prosecute an individual, the sheriff “does not bother to check CJIC” to determine if this is the case. Instead, the sheriff will wait to check the system until the evening before the arrested person’s first appearance, which can be as long as six days, the case alleges.
“Because the Sheriff either does not check to see whether a prosecution determination has been made or ignores the prosecution determination until the night before an arrested person’s initial appearance date, arrested persons are routinely incarcerated by the Sheriff for days after the DA declines prosecution and the legal justification for their confinement ends,” the lawsuit alleges.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.