How long can a defendant be held in jail without an indictment?

Recently on our criminal forum a user asked, “I live in the State of Texas. My dad was held in jail for about 2 months on an indictment that came back “not a true bill.” I am wondering if my dad’s rights were violated. How long is he legally allowed to be held?”

What happens after a felony arrest?

After a felony arrest in the State of Texas an alleged offender is taken into custody. Their personal effects are taken and inventoried. The offender is then photographed and fingerprinted. Offenders must appear before a judge within 48 hours from the time of their arrest (excluding weekends) for the arraignment. If bail or bond is granted, the defendant will be allowed to remain free until their scheduled court appearance.

When does the grand jury have to review a case?

Under Texas law, every felony which goes to trial or pleads must be indicted by a grand jury (exceptions exist if the defendant decides to waive the indictment and proceed to trial).

The grand jury is required to review all the evidence presented by the state and determine if there is sufficient probable cause to indict the defendant.

If the grand jury decides there is insufficient evidence to charge the alleged offender, they will issue a “no-bill.” If there is sufficient evidence for the recommended charge or a lesser charge, they will issue a “true-bill.”

How long can a defendant be legally held before the indictment?

You mentioned your father was kept in jail while he was waiting for the grand jury to review his case. In this case it sounds like either the court did not allow bail or bond or it was so high that your father could not afford to pay.

So let’s take another look at your question by reviewing the Code of Criminal Procedure for the State of Texas.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 17.151, Sec. 1:

“A defendant who is detained in jail pending trial of an accusation against him must be released either on personal bond or by reducing the amount of bail required, if the state is not ready for trial of the criminal action for which he is being detained within:

(1) 90 days from the commencement of his detention if he is accused of a felony. (2) 30 days from the commencement of his detention if he is accused of a misdemeanor punishable by a sentence of imprisonment in jail for more than 180 days.”

It’s also important to note that section 2 provides several exceptions to this law. For example, an alleged offender may be legally detained longer than 90 days if his detention is the result of a violation of the condition of a previous release that was related to the safety of the victim of the alleged offense.

Were your father’s rights violated?

Now, it’s clear from the tone of your question that you believe your father’s rights were violated. Given the current criminal laws in Texas, however, the state was well within their legal rights to hold your father for 2 months.

If your father had been held for more than 90 days, however, it would have been time to have his attorney file a motion for release due to the delay (or an application for writ of habeas corpus). After the motion is filed and reviewed the court generally reduces the bond or bail.

It’s important to note, however, that just because a defendant is released from jail this does not eliminate the state’s right to eventually indict. In fact, an offender may be indicted up until the statute of limitations for the offense expires.

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