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Fifth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Suit for Delay Bringing Arrestees Before a Judge

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Civil Rights action, alleging the violation of the 4th and 14th Amendments of two Mississippi men, who were detained for more than 48-hours without being brought before a judge.

Clifton H. Jones and Jerry Dwayne Nance were arrested on April 5, 2008 for purchasing Pseudoephedrine pills, a precursor to the manufacturing of Methamphetamine. Deputy Sherriff Ivan Bryan, who was unable to find a judge on duty on Saturday or Sunday to determine probable cause, kept the men jailed until Monday morning. Bryan was off-duty and worked a second job. When his shift ended about 2:30pm, he returned to the police station and attempted to schedule an appearance for them, but the chief judge had left for the day and no other was available. The following morning a justice court judge determined the arrests were justified by probable cause. Jones and Nance were not allowed to make their initial appearance until Wednesday, then released on bail. Plaintiffs were indicted for possession of precursors to the manufacture of Methamphetamine.

After the district court granted summary judgment on to defendants based on qualified immunity, Jones and Nance appealed. The claim centers on reasonableness of the 48-hour mark. Because the claim alleged the police officer exceeded this fundamental requirement, plaintiffs have the burden of proving it was unreasonable, and the defense must show extraordinary circumstances.

Jones and Nance cited only one policy that deprived them of their 4th Amendment rights. During interrogatory response, Sherriff Howard explained the general policy of taking detainees to a judge within 48 hours but no later than 72 hours and without unreasonable delays. The 5th Circuit cited County of Riverside v. McLaughlin 500 U.S. 44 (1991) where the 48-hour timeline as a useful benchmark. The lapse of 48 hours does not violate the 4th Amendment. Since Sheriff Howard had no control of the unavailability of judges on that weekend and Monday afternoon, the 5th Circuit determined the lapse of the 48 hours did not violate McLaughlin and affirmed the summary judgment. See: Jones v. Lowndes County, 678 F.3d 344 (5th Cir. 2012).

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Related legal case

Jones v. Lowndes County