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Illegally Detained Client is Released from Jail

Every law firm likes to celebrate big victories, whether it’s obtaining a large settlement or preventing someone from receiving a sentence which far outweighs the crime. Today, we get to celebrate the most exciting type of victory: securing a client’s release from jail, where he has been illegally detained for weeks.

This particular gentleman (we’ll call him Mr. Castillo) heard about our firm from another inmate at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) in Philadelphia, the jail where he was being held. He heard that our firm wakes up every morning ready to fight for our clients and their families – regardless of who’s on the other side.

Mr. Castillo explained to us that he had recently left Texas to come live with his mother, a full-time nurse, in Philadelphia. He was worried about her health and ability to take care of her household throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

When Mr. Castillo landed in Philadelphia in late December 2019, he was promptly arrested by Philadelphia police and charged with Arrest Prior To Requisition (42 § 9134 ), meaning that the Philadelphia police believed there was a warrant for Mr. Castillo’s arrest in Texas and they would hold him in jail until Texas came to pick him up.

By law under 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 9136, Mr. Castillo could only be lawfully detained on this charge up to 30 days, with an extension of 60 additional days by judicial order, for a total of 90 days total, absent a Governor’s Warrant from the State of Texas or a member of Texas law enforcement coming up to Philadelphia to transport Mr. Castillo back to Texas.

By the time our office was hired, Mr. Castillo had already been held for four months, or approximately 120 days. This means he had been illegally detained for 30 days beyond the legal limit!

The experienced defense attorneys at Kenny, Burns & McGill sprung into action and filed an Emergency Motion for Release, which included, among many others, the following averments:

  • Under 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 9136, Mr. Castillo can be detained in Philadelphia custody on this charge up to 30 days, with an extension of 60 additional days by judicial order, for a total of 90 days, absent a Governor’s Warrant from the State of Texas.
  • Mr. Castillo has been detained in Philadelphia custody since his arrest on or around December 20, 2020, more than 120 days in total.
  • Absent a Governor’s Warrant executed and dated no more than ninety (90) days from the date of Mr. Castillo’s arrest, Mr. Castillo should be released immediately.
  • It is undersigned counsel’s ardent position that Mr. Castillo has now been unlawfully detained for more than thirty (30) days in connection with this matter and cannot reasonably be expected to have his rights violated any longer.
  • Mr. Castillo suffers from chronic respiratory ailments, namely asthma, which predispose him to symptoms of COVID-19 and could prove deadly should he contract the virus, especially while being detained at a facility which is agonizingly ill-equipped to handle the medical consequences of this viral pandemic.
  • Mr. Castillo is being held at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (“CFCF”) which places him at an increased risk of contracting the novel coronavirus and potentially endangers any correctional facility workers and inmates with whom he would otherwise come into contact.
  • CFCF lacks the resources necessary to engage in meaningful screening and testing of all inmates, correctional staff, law enforcement officers and other care and service providers who enter the facility.

The Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney filed a one sentence response to the Emergency Motion:

“Having reviewed all applicable relevant information, including but not limited to: victim consultation, case discovery, Gagnon summaries, State Parole summaries, criminal history, FBI extracts, past court attendance, the Commonwealth: Objects to the above referenced motion(s).”

The judge, apparently relying on the District Attorney’s objection, denied our Emergency Motion.

Of course, our attorneys could not back down when our client’s life and liberty were on the line. We quickly filed a Motion to Reconsider, explaining to the judge precisely why their decision was incorrect under the law and reiterating the fact that Mr. Castillo’s rights continue to be violated every single day he is illegally detained.

The Motion to Reconsider read, in part:

  • The ninety (90) days prescribed by statute expired on or around March 11, 2020 and Mr. Castillo has been unlawfully detained ever since.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed this matter directly in Commonwealth ex rel. Knowles v. Lester, 456 Pa. Supreme Ct. 423 (1974), finding in that case that the appellant, who was held for 141 days prior to a preliminary hearing on a fugitive warrant, was detained in violation of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act. A courtesy copy of the Supreme Court’s decision is attached hereto as Exhibit C.
  • In Knowles, the appellant had local charges in Philadelphia in addition to charges stemming from a warrant from Florida, which could arguably have been used to justify his lengthy detention; the Supreme Court ultimately disagreed.
  • In the instant matter, Mr. Castillo’s only charge in the instant matter pertains to an alleged warrant out of Texas.
  • More distressing yet, by calculation of the undersigned, Mr. Castillo has now been held for 147 days, longer even than the appellant was detained in Knowles.
  • Mr. Castillo has now been detained since his arrest on or around December 20, 2020, or nearly 150 days in total, approximately sixty (60) days beyond the statutory limit.

Our office even went so far as to contact the county warrants division in the Texas county where the Commonwealth originally alleged a warrant existed for Mr. Castillo. We confirmed that a warrant did exist at one point, but had since been vacated. This meant that not only was our client being illegally detained by virtue of the length of incarceration, but there might not even be a warrant in Texas anymore. All of that information was included in the Motion to Reconsider.

The Motion to Reconsider was sent to the judge on May 18, 2020 and the judge saw their error and released Mr. Castillo the very next day. Needless to say, Mr. Castillo and his family are extraordinarily relieved.

And while it is unfortunate that the government and the courts took a long time to understand how much they were violating our client’s rights, Kenny, Burns & McGill fought to the finish and got our client out of jail and back home to help his mother.

Kenny, Burns & McGill handles all sorts of criminal defense matters and we have been filing (and winning) many Emergency Motions throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Do you or someone you know need an experienced criminal defense attorney? Is a loved one being illegally detained beyond the end of their sentence? Contact us immediately for a free consultation and learn how our representation can benefit you.

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