Thursday, June 13, 2013

On-Call Weekends

The Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Minnesota provide that a person who is arrested without a warrant must have his or her case presented to a judge within 48 hours of the arrest.  This is another safeguard to have a judicial officer review the law enforcement officer’s analysis of the case to be sure there was, in fact, probable cause to arrest and hold the defendant.

Most of the time, this is not a problem.  The arrested person is merely brought to court the day after his arrest for the judge to review the probable cause, ensure that there is enough evidence to support the charge, and to set bail and conditions of release.

However, if a Defendant is arrested on a Friday night, for instance, the 48 hours expires before court convenes on Monday.  In these circumstances, a judge must be contacted to review the arrest and approve the continued detention of the suspect.

In the First Judicial District, of which Sibley County is a part, we have developed an on-call system to be sure there is a judge available over the weekend to take calls from officers who need to have an arrest affirmed.  So, about four weekends a year, I carried the cell phone and have taken calls from a few to several dozen law enforcement officers over the course of a long weekend.

In addition to calls from police officers, attorneys for arrested persons will call to attempt to have bail set so their clients may be released from custody prior to Monday morning.  Occasionally, the on-call judge will consider an application for search warrant, as well.

I have reviewed arrests for burglary, theft and many other crimes.  Most often, however, the calls involve driving under the influence or domestic assault.  Normally, these defendants will be held for Court on the next available court date. 

I must say that law enforcement officers are, on the whole, quite careful in ensuring that the arrest is legitimate.  They are often apologetic for interrupting the weekend, but I always tell them that we have the “on-call phone” for a reason.  It is my pleasure, as well as my duty, to assist them. 

Judges are not always thrilled to be tied to a cell phone all weekend, but we all know how very important it is that all citizens’ rights are respected and protected.  It is a real honor to serve as the guardian of the Constitutional rights of all.

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Next week:  Tools of the Trade