In State v. Juan F., SC20385 (Conn. July 12, 2022), the defendant argued that the trial court improperly denied his pretrial motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute him within the five-year limitation period set out by statute. Although the court issued a warrant for his arrest within the statute of limitations, the police did not execute the warrant until nearly 16 years after its issuance. Thus, the appellant argued that the warrant was not executed without unreasonable delay.
The Supreme Court of Connecticut explained that when the prosecutorial authority has done everything possible within the limitation period to evidence and effectuate an intent to prosecute, the statute of limitations is tolled. However, to toll the statute of limitations, an arrest warrant, when issued within the time limitations, must be executed without unreasonable delay. What constitutes a reasonable period of time is a question of fact that will depend on the circumstances of each case.
The Court adopted a two-step test to determine whether an arrest warrant was executed without unreasonable delay. First, a defendant must demonstrate their availability for arrest. The state has no burden to prove that the defendant left the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution. Instead, the defendant has the burden of demonstrating that they were not elusive, were available, and were readily approachable. The finding of availability is a factual finding. If the defendant meets this burden, then the burden shifts to the state to demonstrate that any period of delay in executing the warrant was not unreasonable.
The trial court found that the defendant abruptly departed from Connecticut when the criminal accusation against him was made and never returned. By the time the police had secured a warrant for his arrest, the defendant had relocated to Puerto Rico where he essentially remained for the next sixteen years. At no point during this time did the defendant ever hold a driver’s license, pay any type of taxes, maintain legitimate employment, or appear on any lease or other rental agreement. Additionally, the defendant failed to produce any evidence suggesting that his address or other personally identifying information would have appeared in any other public database. Based on this evidence, the Court concluded that the trial court’s finding that the defendant was not available was not clearly erroneous.
Because the defendant did not satisfy his burden of establishing that he was available for arrest, the trial court correctly determined that the burden did not shift to the state to show the reasonableness of the delay. Therefore, the Court held that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.