Another Casualty in the Pointless War on Poor People

Posted by Richard Lawson | Sep 30, 2014 | 2 Comments

According to the Gainesville Times, the police have released a woman who spent more than two months in custody, after her drug test came back negative.

She was jailed on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine.  Instead, the substance on her spoon came back as spaghetti sauce.


Now, that I have stopped yelling, let me explain this so anyone can understand.  This is a classic example of how the war on drugs is a war on the weak and the poor.

I am not poor.  If falsely arrested, I would post a cash bond in a few hours.  I would be free on bail when my spoon with spaghetti sauce came back negative.

What went wrong here is that this "SUSPECT" could not afford to bond out.  So, as a result, she remained in custody for more than two months.

This type of outrageous outcome is not an exception.  It is common.  When I did court appointed work in 15 years ago, many of my clients could not afford bail.  Many plead guilty just to get out of jail, facts of their cases notwithstanding.

I was told by a few prosecutors that regardless of the outcomes of cases, holding people in custody pending trial gave defendants "D.A. punishment time."  The meaning was clear to me.  Holding someone in custody without bond, or a reasonable bond, allows the District Attorney's Office to impose extra-judicial punishment in cases to act as leverage to force people to plead guilty.

D.A. "punishment time" cannot happen to the middle class or the wealthy.  It can only happen to the defenseless.

Bond is Outdated and Serves No Legitimate Purpose:

In my experience bond has no affect on the attendance of defendants.  I have known for more than 19 years which clients will attend court and which will skip out.  The payment of bond is not even considered by the accused.  If a person plans to run from the law, they will.  Almost everyone else appears when they are called to court.

In misdemeanor cases, no one will convince me that the payment of a few thousand dollars bail is a factor in someone's attendance.  It is comical to think that a $2000 bond will compel anyone to do anything.  However, that $2000 can be difficult for a poor person to afford.  As a result, a poor defendant is routinely jailed longer while his family raises the money.  THIS IS TOTALLY UNFAIR!

Now, back the falsely accused woman.  There will be not restitution to her.  She will likely have lost the few things she owned.  How many of us would have anything to which we could return after being away more than two months.

Where is the apology to this woman?

There may be a tepid acknowledgement of the mistake, but nothing more will be done.  She will suffer for years to come, long after her so-called apologies.

Finally, as to how this relates to DUI cases, all DUI cases rely on a police officer's judgment as to impairment, yet POLICE OFFICERS ARE NOT PERFECT.  The officer in the case at hand could not discern spaghetti from drugs.  Wow.  This can and does happen in Atlanta DUI Cases.

Pre-Warning To The Gainsville Georgia Police Department:

Let it be known, the powdery substance on my pants and jacket is POWDERED SUGAR from today's breakfast.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


Luke Ciciliano Reply

Posted Oct 01, 2014 at 09:33:06

Outrageous – the missed time from work, etc is a huge blow to this woman as you mention. I’m assuming from your post that Ga. doesn’t require a probable cause showing within 10 days? In Nevada a preliminary hearing would be held within ten days where the state would have to show that the substance tested positive as a drug or else she would be released.

Richard Lawson Reply

Posted Oct 01, 2014 at 10:14:20


People who have been issued a bond don’t get a probable cause hearing. She (since it was a suspected felony) probably had a hearing but there was no test result. The evidence would have been based not he officers experience etc. This case was a travesty.

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