RIGHT OF THE DAY: If Police Don’t Charge You With Crime, Must Release You Within Short Time

YOUR RIGHT OF THE DAY: After an arrest, if police don’t formally charge you with a crime within a short period of time, they must release you. 1U.S. Constitution, 6th Amendment [Update: Sentence was edited to clarify meaning]

You might think there’s no way this kind of thing happens in our society, but in fact officials in the state of Mississippi are holding people for almost ONE YEAR without formally charging them with a crime!

Mississippi officials are almost certainly violating the Constitution here, specifically the 6th amendment, which requires that authorities must either charge you formally with a crime, including introducing at least some evidence that you committed that crime, or they must release you within a short period of time. The time limit for doing so is not specified in the Constitution, but it is generally understood to mean within a couple weeks (though some states go further and require police to charge you within a few days).

This right is intended to prevent the police from arbitrarily jailing you just because they don’t like you or because they have a “feeling” that you did something wrong. Mississippi authorities do not necessarily have these motives, and are apparently delaying required procedures due to budget constraints. Yet the effect is the same, which amounts to holding people in jail without giving them their day in court for a very long time. The government can’t just say it doesn’t have enough money to uphold your rights.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit in federal court to try to get the federal government to force the state of Mississippi to stop violating the Constitution and people’s rights.

We will be watching this case and will provide updates as they occur.

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