Trucker gets lost in Montana judicial system

| 2/26/2003

With all the paperwork truckers have to deal with, occasionally, some of it gets lost in the system.

But rarely does the system lose the trucker himself.

But that’s exactly what happened in Yellowstone County, MT, to Dallas trucker Douglas Martin. According to media reports, Martin was pulled over in the county on suspicion of driving under the influence in early October.

At the time, he requested a public defender. And he assumed one was working on his behalf.

But no one was. In fact, local law-enforcement officials had lost Martin, leaving him in jail with no public defender and no help until they rediscovered him Feb. 13, four months later and one day before he was supposed to go to trial.

“I'm a prisoner; they had the paperwork,” Martin told The Billings Gazette. “I didn't know nothing else to do but just sit there and wait.”

Prosecutors have dropped their case against Martin and set him free. However, his driving partner had long since taken the load and finished their run, and his company – CRST International of Cedar Rapids, IA – had let him go. Martin is now living in a shelter for the homeless in Billings and looking for a job.

Martin was apparently forgotten by the system early in the process, after his video arraignment. The Associated Press reported that he should have been given a form requesting a public defender. However, Martin reportedly said he never received the form.

Court officials said they had never heard of a case like Martin's.

“It's just bizarre,” County Attorney Dennis Paxinos told The Gazette.

Martin was a little more pointed in describing his case.

“I've lost four months, my job, all my belongings,” he told the newspaper. “It's cold up here, and I don't know nobody. I need some justice here.”