Answer: Yes, people who are in jail can be charged with additional charges in the same case or with new charges in a new case.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can You Get Charged While In Jail With a New Crime? (Explained)
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Introduction To Charging Procedures
Charging decisions are made by prosecutors, even though police officers regularly issue some charges to offenders on the scene or upon release from the jail.
In the end, all criminal prosecutions are managed by the prosecutor’s office, and even if police officers or victims want a criminal case to proceed, the prosecutor who is assigned the case gets to decide.
The reason this is relevant to the question is that an offender can wait in limbo for days, weeks, or even months for the charging decision to occur.
This can be for several reasons, including:
- the prosecutor is extremely busy with other cases or trials
- the offender’s case needs additional investigation
- the prosecutor is waiting for a witness to be available
- the prosecutor is waiting for the offender to mess up in other ways
In the meantime, while the prosecution is working with law enforcement to investigate the case, the offender may go on with his life and make other mistakes.
That other mistake could land him in jail, pre-trial or post-sentencing.
The prosecutor may choose not to prosecute someone who is already incarcerated; after all, if the individual has been sentenced to a long period of prison, he is out of the community and cannot commit additional crimes there.
But then again, if the sentence is short (or the confinement is pre-trial), the prosecutor may aggressively pursue a new case in order to take advantage of the fact that the defendant can easily be found for trial.
Additional charges or cases can also be used to ‘encourage’ the defendant to accept a plea deal in negotiations that would result in a jail sentence.
Serving The Defendant With New Crimes
A defendant who is already in custody is entitled to all of the rights that any citizen would have in a newly filed case, even though he may have lost some others (like his freedom) in another criminal case.
A defendant in custody charged with a new case has the right to an attorney, to hear and see the charges against him, the right to gather evidence and call witnesses on his behalf at trial, the right to have the trial….the works.
To initiate a new case against a defendant in custody, the defendant will have to be offered the opportunity to appear in court to be arraigned on the new case.
An arraignment is the initial hearing in every criminal case where the defendant is officially notified of the charges against him.
For a defendant who is in custody, that might mean an in person hearing with the judge, or it could mean an electronic hearing via video conference, with a presentation of the charges to him physically.
From then on, the case proceeds, but the defendant has to defend himself from his jail cell.
Committing Crimes While In Jail
Behavior that is criminal outside of the jail is criminal inside of the jail.
Punching someone in the face on the outside is assault, and punching someone on the inside (of the jail walls) is also assault.
Like discussed above, when a defendant commits a crime, the prosecution has the decision-making power over whether charges will be filed.
If the defendant is already incarcerated, the prosecutor may be less inclined to pursue an inmate aggressively, especially if the inmate has been sentenced to a long term of prison.
But if an inmate is set to be released back into the community in the near future, the prosecutor might be more motivated to achieve a result that prevents the inmate from returning to the community.
An inmate who is charged with crimes committed while in jail is still entitled to have an attorney represent him; his status as an inmate in a prison does not take away his constitutional right to defend himself in the new case.
If you have been charged with crimes, or you are worried that you will be, conferring with an attorney early on is recommended.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need a lawyer or be able to afford a retained lawyer in your case, early consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your state could prevent you from making your case worse and give you guidance about what to do next.
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