Software Error Blamed For Wrongful Arrests

A federal complaint was filed in North Carolina federal court alleging that the state’s new electronic court records system, implemented in four counties, has led to numerous arrests of the same person on the exact warrant and hindered the discharge of others from detention.

A report shows that two North Carolinians who were detained earlier this year have filed a lawsuit against the Texas tech firm that created the computerized filing system they allege led to their wrongful detention and the complainants’ county sheriffs. 

Timia Chaplin and Paulino Castellanos have asked a federal court to stop their respective sheriffs from using the system in a case filed in the United States District Court. The complaint, which seeks class-action status, implies that hundreds of other people throughout the state are similarly situated.

According to the report, the state Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) granted Tyler Technologies a contract worth $100 million in 2019 for a suite of software tools known as eCourts, after years of debate over how to update the antiquated filing system of the state court.

On February 13, 2019, the initiative began in four trial counties with the goal of expanding to the remaining 96 counties by 2025. However, several lawyers and legislators have complained about its shaky launch, citing bugs, slowdowns, and growth delays.

A report explaining the case, which dates back to 2011, details issues with eCourts-like system rollouts by Tyler in California, Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas.  In each of these states, Tyler paid class-action lawsuits alleging unjust detentions and arrests. The complaint also says that the panel of directors that recommended AOC engage with Tyler cautioned the agency to look into reports of legal wrongdoing against Tyler before signing a contract.

Chaplin says system flaws violated her right to be free of unreasonable search, seizure, and confinement when she was twice detained on the exact same warrant for not appearing in court.

Chaplin claimed that her arrest warrant was still active for over a month after a judge dropped her case during a rescheduled court appearance in March since the “resolved” status was not yet conveyed across eCourts platforms.