Drug Courts Keeping People in Jail Longer Than Their "Sanctions," Lawsuit Alleges Due Process, Other Rights Violations

Indiana drug court under fire


"from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other"

The Indiana Lawyer has an interesting piece focusing on lawsuits against drug courts in the state. It begins thus:

Destiny Hoffman furnished a diluted drug screen and was sanctioned with a 48-hour stay in the Clark County Jail. She wasn't freed for another five months.

Jason O'Connor was given a 30-day drug court sanction on June 20 of last year, but he lingered behind bars in Jeffersonville until Jan. 24 – more than 180 days longer.

Nathan S. Clifford also was detained months longer than he should have been.

They're not the only ones.

"I would anticipate we're going to find more of these," said Nathan Masingo, a public defender who represented Hoffman until she pleaded guilty to a Class D felony possession of a controlled substance charge last year and was diverted to drug court. As is customary after someone enters drug court, Masingo then withdrew from the case. He knew nothing of Hoffman's protracted detention.

Masingo tells the Indiana Lawyer it seems that drug courts operate under the mistaken premise that defendants in drug court have waived their due process rights. The lawsuit by Hoffman, O'Connor, Clifford, and at least three others, allege a violation of due process rights and the right to representation by a lawyer. There may be criminal charges related to the alleged abuses as well, according to the Indiana Lawyer, which reports that Clark County's prosecutor has petitioned for a special prosecutor "to avoid the appearance of impropriety during any further investigation." That special prosecutor was appointed last week, and last month the drug court's director was fired by the judge who created the program. Attorneys the Indiana Lawyer spoke to say the practice of unlawful, extended detentions is widespread in the drug court system.

Read the entire Indiana Lawyer piece here, and Reason on the bipartisan push for rights-violating drug courts here.

Semi-related: Franz Kafka on the U.S. legal system