Many crimes have a statute of limitations attached. What that means is that prosecutors have an obligation to begin legal proceedings against a suspect within a certain time period. Such rules are in place to protect potential defendants' rights and prevent government from attempting to launch action based on stale evidence or faulty memories.
One of the ways prosecutors seek to get around statutes of limitation is by leveling charges of conspiracy. Where conspiracy is alleged, the presumption is that the suspected illegal activity has been ongoing.
That appears to be the basis used to obtain a federal drug crimes indictment against a man in Norfolk. He was arrested last month in Pennsylvania and is now facing one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
The charge stems from activity that allegedly occurred in 1998. According to court documents, the man had been under investigation at that time for attempting to deal cocaine around Norfolk and Virginia Beach. A warrant for his arrest was issued, but he disappeared before it could be executed.
At a hearing in federal court last week, prosecutors claimed that the suspect fled to Georgia and took on an alias. There, he was arrested under that alias on other drug trafficking charges. Prosecutors say he posted bond and disappeared again.
It wasn't until this past summer, in a traffic stop in New York, that police came across the man again. He was operating under another identity, but they took his fingerprints as part of the citation process, and that allowed federal authorities to track him down.
The prosecutor in Norfolk says all the witnesses and evidence needed to press ahead with the charges are available. Because he has two previous felony convictions, this man could face life in prison if convicted.
Georgia officials say they hope to prosecute the suspect on the outstanding case in their jurisdiction, as well.
Source: HamptonRoads.com, "Man who avoided capture is indicted on drug count," Scott Daugherty, Sept. 20, 2013