Thousands of Metro cases dropped due to court error

Thousands of Metro cases dropped due to court error (Image 1)

Thousands of people cited for crimes in Nashville are getting a free pass because of an error in the courts.

Around 4,300 misdemeanor citations for crimes such as simple marijuana possession, driving on a revoked license and shoplifting were withdrawn by Davidson County's Presiding General Session Judge Michael Mondelli on Thursday.

The Davidson County District Attorney's office caught the error last week. The office began to review cases and found thousands of other cases dating back at least five years.

State law requires the city to destroy misdemeanor citations older than five years old. 

According to officials, thousands of people who missed their court dates to see a judge were never issued bench warrants.

Bench warrants allow officers to arrest the person for missing court.

Assistant District Attorney Rosemary Sexton, team leader of the General Sessions team, said since those warrants were not issued the one-year statute of limitation on misdemeanor charges it ran out on the cases.

As a result, the defendants cannot be prosecuted for those offenses.

The offenses are minor misdemeanors that did not require the defendant be arrested at the time of the offense. Instead they are issued a citation and ordered to report to court at a later date.

The offenses include simple marijuana possession, criminal trespass and shoplifting, among others.

Sexton said it is unclear exactly how this happened, but it appears that within the process of issuing bench warrants some were not actually issued, the citation was simply stamped as needing one.  

She said it was a human error, not a computer glitch.

Nashville's News 2 found out that hundreds of other cases were caught in time.

The presiding Judge Mondelli issued bench warrants for the people who are still able to be prosecuted on Wednesday.

Sexton also said that the error has been corrected and will not be an issue in the future.

She said the county handles around 300 misdemeanor citations a day, 50,000 so far this year, and the number of cases withdrawn because of the error is small percentage of the misdemeanor cases successfully prosecuted in Metro Davidson County General Sessions Court.

The county did not identify the employee or employees that failed to attach the bench orders.

Nashville's News 2 will continue to investigate and will bring updates as they become available.

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