Recently, a Harris County rape victim was held in jail for nearly a month because lawyers feared that the victim would not speak against her attack unless she was forced to by a court. While the woman’s attacker was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the woman’s time in court result in substantial damaging circumstances.
The woman, who is afflicted with mental health issues, was jailed for twenty seven days after breaking down on the witness stand. Due to this emotional breakdown, prosecutors feared that the woman would run from the case and not return to court. While in jail, the woman was attacked by another intimate, experienced an altercation with a jail guard, and was regularly refused psychiatric medication.
Due to the unfortunate circumstances suffered through by the woman, Texas legislature is now considering reforms to witness attachment orders, a process by which witnesses may jailed prior to in-court testimony. One of these reforms is that legislation is considering making courts appoints attorney to any witnesses who face attachment orders.
How Widespread Are the Danger of Bench Warrants And Witness Bonds?
Harris County District Attorney’s Office audited its own department to make sure that something similar never happened again. The Department found that 35 people are currently being held in jail on bench warrants, which means the individuals have been convicted of crimes in different counties but were transferred to Harris County jail to testify in trials occurring there. Only one individual has been held for three months on a witness bond in order to testify in a capital murder trial. The Department discovered that a sexual assault victim had been held in jail on a bench warrant two months longer than the woman should have been held.
To resolve these problems, the Harris County District Attorney’s office plans to select an “inner office tracker” who will monitor individuals in the jail to make that authorities do not overlook any of these cases.
The Role Of Bench Warrants And Witness Bonds
The authority of law enforcement to take a person into custody usually arises from an arrest warrant, which is a legal document that is signed by a judge. There are also various situations in which law enforcement can arrest an individual without a warrant.
An individual may be taken into custody for contempt of court through the use of a document called a bench warrant. A bench warrant is a warrant issued by a judge or court of law when an individual fails to attend a scheduled court hearing.
Witness bonds are another legal method for making sure that a witness appears a trial. Using a witness bond or witness attachment order to place a witness in jail, however, is an uncommon occurrence and often reserved for the very worst witnesses.
Protecting Your Rights
These legal methods should only be used in a way that protects the rights of witness, not to result in unfortunate events as experienced by the woman in this case.
Jeff King can help answer any questions an individual might have about lawful arrests and arrest warrants. Jeff King, Dallas criminal defense attorney, has helped many individuals defend themselves after arrests and has the experience necessary to ensure that your case has the best possible outcome. Contact us today and we will give you an evaluation of your case and options.