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Florida Prison’s Mistaken/Accidental Early Release Programs

prison.jpgImagine going ‘Shawshank” due to a clerical error at the prison. It happens to a lucky few prisoners who win the government error lottery. One such incident is documented the Florida case of Drumwright vs. State of Florida, 572 So. 2d 1029. For a while there, Mr. Drumwright was the luckiest guy around. He received a 30 year prison sentence, but the clerk of court wrote it down as a 30 month prison sentence. As per typical government efficiency, he was released from prison after serving only 30 months.

All good things must come to an end, and after Mr. Drumwright was living free in the community for a little while, someone caught the mistake and he was taken back to court to begin serving the rest of his 30 year sentence. The question then was, how much time should he be given credit for? The answer depends upon who’s at “fault” for his early release. The Drumwright court held that if a defendant somehow contributes to his mistaken release, no credit for the ‘free’ time is given. The court held that Drumwright did not in any way contribute to his early release, so he was entitled to credit for the time he was not serving time, but should have been.

Now Florida courts have gotten a tad more ridiculous regarding mistaken release cases. In Gaines v. Florida Parole Commission, 962 So. 2d 1040 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007), Mr. Gaines won the jail release lottery, and was released from the county jail mistakenly, before going up to D.O.C. to serve the rest of his 21 year sentence on a violation of probation. Gaines left Florida and went to live in New York. The Court denied Gaines any credit for time served while he was “free” in New York, because the court held that he should have complained to the jail, or notified the Department of Corrections of the mistake.

Really? This court requires a prisoner to complain about their early release? In Orlando, a complaint at the Orange County Jail may not get you too far. What about when prisoners complain that they are innocent (as many are innocent, of course, check the stats…), does that do any good? Does it do any good to complain about the food in jail? Believe it or not, we criminal defense attorneys see more mistakes than you might expect. But,if I were to be early released, I say that’s a good time not to question authority.