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Criminal Justice & Legal System

A guide to understanding due process rights in Wayne County jails

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A Michigan Radio analysis found that as of January 2022, at least 120 people were being held in pre-trial detention at a Wayne County Jail for more than 18 months.

We’ve created this guide to help you understand due process rights, and ways you can support a loved one in pre-trial detention. 

We also created a printable flyer version of this fact sheet. Click on the pages below to make the flyer bigger. To save it on your computer, right click on the image and click save. If you are on a phone or tablet, press on the image and hold to save it.

This resource sheet was compiled with information and experiences shared by attorneys, Erin Keith of the Detroit Justice Center, Takura Nyamfukudza of the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, and Bill Swor of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. 

How long can someone be held in jail without trial?

According to Michigan Court Rule 6.004, “Whenever the defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial is violated, the defendant is entitled to dismissal of the charge with prejudice.” The rule calls for release if someone is held in pre-trial detention for more than 180 days on a felony charge. But if a judge determines someone is unlikely to appear in court or presents a danger to the community, the 180-day rule no longer applies.

An analysis by Michigan Radio found that the person who has spent the longest time in pre-trial detention in a Wayne County jail has been there just short of four years.

It can be difficult for a defendant to prove to a judge that their speedy trial rights were violated. Defendants must demonstrate that delays were not related to common procedural matters like competency hearings, pretrial motions, attorneys’ requests for delays, and other issues.

Right now, the law does not set a limit on how long someone can spend in pre-trial incarceration before their “speedy trial” rights are violated, but Michigan House Bill 5438 would set an 18-month limit, with some exceptions.

How can I get information about a case?

Find someone’s next court date in Wayne County jails by putting their name into this website maintained by the Sheriff’s Office. Inmates’ names should be entered in the following format: last name, first name.

To find more information about an individual’s case, including the relevant attorneys and judges, as well as a list of procedural updates including motions, you can search for the case on the Wayne County Third Circuit Court website. (Make sure you select either criminal or civil cases, and enter the captcha code at the top of the search form.)

What can I do to support a loved one in pre-trial detention?

As of early April 2022, visitation is still not allowed in Wayne County jails.

The Circuit Court also remains closed to observers. You can watch hearings online as they happen here. (You will have to look up the judge assigned to the case and the time of the hearing to select the right “channel” at the right time.)

Some defense attorneys recommend reaching out to the court’s clerk for updates or relevant material on a loved one’s case. If possible, try to speak with or meet with the defense attorney working on your loved one’s case. Let them know how important they are to you and inform them of anything that might have been missed or misconstrued in the investigation. Keep a paper trail.

Is there help available for people in pre-trial detention? 

Michigan Liberation, Detroit Justice Center, Safe and Just Michigan, Nation Outside, and the ACLU of Michigan are advocacy groups that work on criminal justice issues in Michigan. The Bail Project is a national group that can help people make bail.

Who can we hold accountable in this process?

Voters elect county prosecutors as well as circuit court judges in Michigan. Since both prosecutors and judges determine issues like pre-trial detention and plea deals, it is important to understand their records on issues that are important to you, and vote accordingly. The county executive and sheriff who oversee the Wayne County jails are also elected, and you can call their offices to make them aware of your concerns.

Similarly, watch how your state representative and senators vote on criminal justice issues. Find your state representative by putting in your address here. Find your state senator by putting your address in here.

To register to vote, click here.

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