Fifth Circuit Rules that Sheriff Violated Woman’s Due Process by Detaining Her for Over Three Months Before Allowing Her to See a Judge

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution state that the government may not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Federal law enforcement officials are bound by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, while the Fourteenth Amendment extends it to state and local officials. The provision regarding “deprivation of liberty” protects the rights of individuals arrested and taken into custody, generally giving them the right to see a judge, request bail, and make other challenges to their detention. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Texas federal crimes, ruled last year that a county sheriff violated a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by holding her for 96 days—more than three months—before allowing her to go before a judge. Jauch v. Choctaw Cty., et al., No. 16-60690, slip op. (5th Cir., Oct. 24, 2017). The case involved a civil lawsuit for deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but the holding affects future arrests in Texas and other Fifth Circuit states.

The courts have identified two main forms of due process. Procedural due process requires the government to notify a person of the charges against them, and to give them the opportunity to respond. Substantive due process is far more abstract and controversial. It protects various individual rights, including the rights identified in the First through Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, the right to participate in “political processes,” and the rights of “discrete and insular minorities.” United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 152 note 4 (1938). The U.S. Supreme Court has cited substantive due process in decisions finding that the government may not infringe upon certain rights not expressly identified in the Constitution, such as the right to privacy. See, e.g. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965); Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973); Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).

According to the Fifth Circuit’s opinion in Jauch, a grand jury indicted the plaintiff for the sale of a Schedule IV controlled substance in January 2012. The indictment was based on “the word of a confidential informant.” Jauch, slip op. at 1. A capias warrant was issued on the same day in Choctaw County, Mississippi. The plaintiff was pulled over for a traffic infraction that April, and she was taken into custody because of the capias. She reportedly cleared the traffic offenses within days, but she was told by the sheriff that she could not see a judge “until August when the next term of the Circuit Court commenced.” Id. at 2. She remained in custody for 96 days. Several months later, the prosecutor moved to dismiss all of the charges, and no one has since disputed “that [the plaintiff] was innocent all along.” Id.

The plaintiff filed suit against the sheriff under § 1983, alleging violations of her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and other provisions. The district court dismissed her lawsuit, finding that the Fourth Amendment applied to her situation better than Fourteenth Amendment due process. The Fifth Circuit disagreed, finding that the defendant denied the plaintiff “enumerated constitutional rights relating to criminal procedure.” Id. at 14 (emphasis in original).

These blog posts are meant to be illustrative only. Unless expressly stated to the contrary herein, these matters are not the result of any legal work of Michael J. Brown, but are used to communicate a particular point of view. Michael J. Brown does not claim credit for any legal work done by any lawyer or law firm either generally or specifically, with respect to the matters contained in this blog.

Board-certified drug crime attorney Michael J. Brown has advocated for the rights of people facing federal and state charges in West Texas courts for over 20 years. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157.

More Blog Posts:

Texas Court System Struggles With Whether Indigent Defendants Should Have Counsel at Bail Hearings, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2017

How the Misdemeanor Criminal Justice System Leads to Numerous Injustices in Texas and Around the Country, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 5, 2016

When Debt Collection Became a Federal Case in Texas and Resulted in an Arrest, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 8, 2016


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