There is a statute of limitations, but there may be an issue that prevents it from providing relief. The statute is satisfied if the charges are brought within the required period. In other words, the fact that this occurred 7 years ago is irrelevant if the charges were brought in time. Since there was a bench warrant issued, it appears that the charges were filed long before 2013.
I am sorry that you feel that your court appointed attorney is not helping. If you have attempted to contact him or her and they have not returned calls, then you should contact a private attorney. However, if the issue is that he or she is not approaching the case in the way that your fiance desires-it may be because your fiance's approach would not be useful.
Michael L. Doyle
This is not intended as individual legal advice and there is no attorney client relationship established by this answer. It is advisable that you seek individualized legal assistance. This is not a substitute for hiring an attorney.
There is a statute of limitation and a speedy trial rule at play here. The issue is fact sensitive so his attorney would be in the best position to understand the facts and make an argument for dismissal.
Let me first say that I agree with the answers provided by Attorneys Doyle and Keller. I've read the comments posted here as well and what you've described is troubling. It is important that you understand that the lawyer is representing your fiance and owes a duty only to him. When someone is in jail the opportunity for miscommunication/misunderstanding by you is very real. If counsel is behaving as described, my suggestion is that attempts be made to document the lack of effort. I recommend that your fiance write a detailed letter to counsel describing what has happened and what has not happened to date and request an in-person meeting with him at the jail. Copies of all correspondence with counsel should be retained for future reference. If the relationship with counsel does not improve, your fiance is going to have to alert the Court, on the record, (i.e. with a court reporter present preserving the proceeding) of the failings in the relationship with counsel. If the relationship is not adequately documented it will become a matter of the lawyer's word against your fiance--not a winning formula. Good luck. Btw, the best solution would, of course, be for privately retained counsel to take over his representation.
There is a statute of limitations for filing a charge; there is also a speedy trial rule of criminal procedure that may come into play. If your fiancee's court appointed lawyer will not speak to him he can always hire a private lawyer. Hopefully the court appointed lawyer has examined the time line for the charge and can tell your fiancee whether there is any time related issue that can be presented to the court. Good luck
I think you have received sufficient information concerning the statute of limitations issue by the other attorneys who have answered and I agree with them. I have also read the comments that you posted to the answers provided. While you do not need to tell me on this public forum, I'm assuming that the drug involved is crack or cocaine as mandatory minimum sentences kick in for those drugs if the total weight is over 2 grams.
Generally, in Philadelphia, pre-trial offers are made at the arraignment and then there is a pre-trial conference scheduled about a month later. I believe you mentioned that the pre-trial conference is April 9th. Therefore, court-appointed counsel likely received an offer somewhat recently. The attorney has an ethical duty to his client and the court to relay any pre-trial offer and your fiance has the right to accept or reject that offer, on the record before a judge or by signing a document that the DA's Office refers to as the SMART Room Offer Sheet. That offer sheet would have been provided to counsel at the arraignment. Your fiance should insist that the matter not go past the pre-trial conference until he is brought down to the courthouse and has a chance to address the matter of any pre-trial offer in open court so there is no confusion.
He should not in any way discuss the merits or facts of the case in open court. However, he can bring to the court's attention that his attorney has not come to visit him, has not discussed the case with him, has not provided him with discovery or discussed any pre-trial offer with him. The attorney may assume based on what you've said that your fiance is not interested in the offer and the case could get spun out to a trial room where, if convicted, your fiance is facing significantly more time than the mandatory minimum. In addition, his attorney may be able to negotiate with the District Attorney to make a lower offer.
Despite all of this, if the drug is cocaine and your fiance has no prior convictions for possession with intent to deliver he is facing a mandatory of 1-2 years in state prison and 3-6 years if he does have a prior. And, these mandatory sentences go up if the weight is above 10 grams. Therefore, since it does not appear that you have the funds to hire a private attorney, I strongly suggest that your fiance send a letter to his attorney and perhaps even to the court insisting that he be present for his pre-trial conference (because the defendants usually are not brought down from State Road unless it's going to be a plea) so that this issue can be sorted out before the case goes to a trial room.
If the attorney is "called out" in open court by the judge, he's likely to start paying more attention to your fiance's case. Or, he may agree that they just can't work together and perhaps he'll agree that it's best that other counsel is appointed. While that doesn't happen often, if both parties agree, then the court may be willing to appoint alternative counsel. Otherwise, I strongly suggest that you contact family and friends and do all you can to hire a private attorney.
Almost all criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations and it can't hurt to speak to some in the area to get some prices and some basic advice on how to proceed. I wish you and your fiance all the best and I'm sorry to hear you're having this problem with a local attorney.
Brian M. Fishman
The posting of an answer to this question in no way creates an attorney-client relationship between myself and any reader. I always suggest you contact and hire a lawyer to receive legal advice.