If you were charged with a crime in El Paso within the last year or so, you may have a get out of jail free card coming.

A backlog of cases in the El Paso court system have missed, or are about to miss, a critical, legal deadline. If you've been busted, charged and posted bond, you still need to be indicted.

Same goes if you didn't post bond and are just sitting in a cage although, obviously, that situation is a bit more stressful.

Whether in or out of jail, the Texas Statute Code of Criminal Procedure 32.01 says that peeps who are accused of a crime must be indicted within 180 days or be freed.

Here's the whole thing::

When a defendant has been detained in custody or held to bail for the defendant's appearance to answer any criminal accusation, the prosecution, unless otherwise ordered by the court, for good cause shown, supported by affidavit, shall be dismissed and the bail discharged, if indictment or information be not presented against the defendant on or before the last day of the next term of the court which is held after the defendant's commitment or admission to bail or on or before the 180th day after the date of commitment or admission to bail, whichever date is later. - statutes.capitol.texas.gov

In El Paso, well over 400 cases have gone way past that and are about to be dismissed. Many more have actually been taken away by the state.

The most commonly heard reason for this backlog blames our old friend, COVID-19. With courts closed and people ordered to "stay home", (and despite the ability to handle things remotely or by phone), some things were lost, forgotten and/or ignored.

While COVID may have stopped many things, it didn't stop crimes from being committed nor people from being popped. That leaves many wondering if a complete system shutdown was ever really a good idea.

Other theories for the huge, legal mess found on social media and elsewhere include staff shortages in the DA's office as well as a lack of veteran DA staff members and incompetence.

Bottom line, a bunch of folks just caught a BIG break. Ya'll might want to go buy a lottery ticket or two.

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