Can you be held in jail without being charged with a crime?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2015 | Criminal Defense |

Imagine what you were doing 900 days ago. That’s roughly two and-a-half years ago. You may have been in another job, dating someone else, married or divorced, childless or living in a completely different place. The point is that a lot can happen in a couple years.

Now imagine spending that same amount of time locked up in jail with no indication of when you’ll be released. That is the situation one man is facing. According to news reports, he has spent more than 900 days in jail without even being charged with a crime. Instead, he has been detained as a material witness in the murder of one of his sons. This story has raised a number of important questions concerning civil rights as well as the process of detaining material witnesses.

In the U.S., there is a Material Witness Statute in place. Essentially, the statute gives permission to law enforcement agents to detain any person who is considered a material witness. This means that he or she is believed to have information that could be valuable to a criminal investigation and is going to be asked to testify in court. The detainment is necessary to prevent the witness from fleeing or causing harm to others or him or herself.

However, people who are in this situation have the right to request a hearing and have an attorney present to protect their rights and interests. In some cases, a judge will determine that a person should not be considered a material witness. In other cases, it may be established that the witness is not a flight risk and detention is unnecessary.

It is not clear why the man in the above-mentioned case has been detained for so long, and there are no previous or similar cases of a material witness being held that amount of time. It is also not known if he will be released anytime soon in light of his uniquely upsetting situation.

What is known is that this may serve as a reminder that people don’t always understand what, if anything, they can do to be released in situations like this. But it is important for people to understand that they do have rights, including the right to speak with an attorney to determine what options they have and what could be done to seek release.


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