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2 years solitary without trial for DWI prompts $15M damage award

The filing of charges of driving under the influence or driving while impaired seem to becoming so common in Tennessee that they almost seem to warrant little attention. But as we have often said, such accusations are not trivial and deserve to be handled with as much resolve as any criminal case to achieve the best possible outcome for the person accused.

The value of having adequate legal representation extends beyond the presentation of a solid case before the court. It also offers a level of security against the kind of thing that happened to one man. His case played out in another state, but it could just as well have occurred in Tennessee.

The man, 58, was taken into custody on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and receiving a stolen vehicle back in 2005. He was thrown in jail and, according to his subsequent lawsuit, essentially forgotten for two years. Not only was he incarcerated, but he was left in solitary confinement and was never brought to trial. While held, he was denied dental care and developed bedsores. He also now suffers from lung cancer.

On his release in 2007, the charges against him were dismissed. He filed a civil rights violation lawsuit and won a $22 million award. After an appeal by the county that was responsible for his situation, the amount was lowered to $15 million. The man recently received $6 million of the settlement. The rest will be paid to him in installments.

Authorities apparently took the measure of putting the man in solitary confinement because he has a history of mental illness. His attorney says that condition was only made worse by the maltreatment he suffered.

This case is clearly represents an extreme. Still, it did happen and serves to reinforce why people facing DWI or any other charge in Tennessee should be working with an attorney.

Source: Daily Mail, "Cancer-stricken man, 58, who was kept in solitary confinement for TWO YEARS with no trial after DWI arrest is finally awarded $15m after prison appealed payout," Rachel Quigley and Louise Boyle, March 6, 2013

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