EBR looks to rid delays to trial, creates 72-hour arraignments policy
BATON ROUGE - Starting Wednesday, the criminal judges of the 19th Judicial District Court will implement a change in the amount of time people arrested will enter a plea.
Instead of eight weeks, criminal arraignments will begin 72 hours after an arrest.
"This is the right thing to do," said Public Defender Mike Mitchell. "We are going to find that people who used to languish in jail waiting to find out whether they are going to be charged will now find out in three days. This will be a lot of non-violent offenders that will either be released or monitored, or charged or not charged, within a few days as opposed to waiting 30, 45, 65 or 120 days to find out their fate."
The criminal judges voted to implement this change last week. This will require a system change, which EBR District Hillar Moore says will take about 8 weeks to completely transition. The change will span through multiple agencies.
According to Moore, police will have to finalize their police reports and get supervisor approval before showing up at the prison. The district attorneys will have to bill cases within 48 hours, every day. The clerk has to prepare the next day's filings and dockets every afternoon for the next day, and judges have to conduct arraignments at 9 a.m. every morning.
"I have been in this system for 45 years and I think this is the biggest game-changer that I've ever seen in the criminal justice process over the years," said Moore. "This all came about traveling around the country and meeting other DA's and public defenders and judges, and explaining to them the time delays in Louisiana. We were surely outlier in that regard."
Moore says the change will save the court and the Sheriff hundreds of thousands of dollars in subpoenas for arraignments that will no longer need to be issued, as well as $1 million in prison savings.
"This will present more humanity to the people that we are serving, those who are accused, while at the same time balancing public safety," said Judge Trudy White. "It's a good mix. We are all bought into it and we appreciate the community to give us any chance to work out any bugs."
Something to note, even under the 72-hour arraignments, the DA will reserve the right to full limits of law, which is longer than 72 hours if needed.