Randy McIlwain, NBC 5 News
Days after the Dallas Police Department blamed human error and new computer technology for dozens of felony suspects being released from jail, but suspects are often released because the deadline to file formal charges has come and gone.
Days after the Dallas Police Department blamed human error and new computer technology for the release of two dozen felony suspects, NBC 5 has learned that suspects are often released because the deadline to file formal charges has come and gone.
Dallas police initially said the early release of the inmates from the Dallas County Jail was human error and a new computer system some officers view as difficult to use. The truth is that the suspects are being released because deadlines are being missed to formally charge them.
In Dallas County, police departments have between three and 10 business days to file a formal charge against a suspect or the arrestee can be released from jail.
"There may or may not be sufficient evidence to actually have a successful prosecution,” said Assistant District Attorney Ellyce Lindberg. “In those kind of cases, it’s important that the person doesn’t spend any additional time in jail and that person gets out.”
Throughout the month of June, 224 felony defendants have been released from the Dallas County Jail because the filing deadlines were missed.
Since April, the number of felony suspects released totals 613.
Police departments can ask for extensions to formally file charges and are also given a warning two days in advance of a defendants release.
"Just because someone is released from the writ list doesn’t mean they won’t be prosecuted for the offense,” said Lindberg.
The problem is there’s no guarantee that once released the felony suspect can be found and re-arrested. For felony defendants, it requires police to go back to square one and seek a criminal indictment and then an arrest warrant.
Dallas County is the rare example of the three to 10-day filing rule that has been in place since 2008 to force the completion of paperwork and expedite cases.
Other counties allow a longer period for filing a formal charge and most law enforcement officials agree you can’t always investigate a difficult felony case in 10 days.
"More time is always better,” said Lindberg. "At the same time you have to balance that out because we don’t want to hold people in jail if the evidence isn’t sufficient to hold them in jail.”