On March 2, 2013, police in Round Rock, Texas were called to the site of a disturbance between two men and found 25-year-old Joey Carabajal lying on the ground. Carabajal’s truck was searched and police found a bottle containing what they believed was codeine syrup.
Carabajal, who had several prior convictions of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and assault, was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance.
After his arrest, Carabajal urged his attorney to request that the confiscated liquid be tested because it did not contain codeine. However, before tests were performed, the Williamson County District Attorney’s office offered Carabajal a deal: Plead guilty on the spot for a two-year sentence or face a longer prison term if convicted at trial.
On June 4, 2013, Carabajal pled guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison.
On December 29, 2013, the syrup was finally tested by the crime lab and the results were negative for codeine. The lab’s notification arrived in the office of the District Attorney on January 2, 2014, the same day that Carabajal was paroled from prison.
The prosecution notified the judge who had accepted Carabajal’s guilty plea and an attorney was appointed to represent Carabajal and file a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petition was granted by the trial court and on February 26, 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued the writ. On March 20, 2014, the charge was dismissed.
In 2015, Carabajal received a lump sum payment of $79,583 in state compensation.
– Maurice Possley