Recently, comedian Bill Cosby was accused of sexual assault by dozens of women. Many of these women said they were assaulted by Cosby decades ago. “Why can’t they just throw Bill Cosby in jail?” many people thought to themselves. The reason is the statute of limitations on sex crimes.
Statutes of limitations serve a valid and necessary purpose in our criminal justice system. They are part of the system of laws that protect the rights guaranteed to you by the constitution. But there are some exceptions to a statute of limitations. The most commonly used exception is the DNA exception rule. So why does this exception exist?
The Purpose Behind Statutes of Limitations
Statutes of limitations exist as a safeguard to the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a speedy trial. This is important because a charge that takes places many years – or even decades – after a crime has been committed can pose serious problems for a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Say you are charged with a crime the day after it allegedly occurred. You happen to have witnesses who can corroborate your whereabouts on that day and exonerate you. If, however, this charge is brought on many years later, those same witnesses can be harder to track down and their recollection of the events is not as vivid. In this way, statutes of limitations make sure that people are not in constant fear of being charged with crimes that they have no chance of defending against.
The DNA Exception Rule
California Penal Code Section 803(g) creates an exception to the statute of limitations for certain sex-related crimes spelled out in Section 210(c). It says that if an offense was committed after January 1, 2001, and DNA was collected and analyzed within two years of the offense, then a criminal complaint can be filed within one year of conclusively establishing the identity of the suspect even if the statute of limitations has run out.1
To put it another way, if your DNA was found at the scene of a sex offense listed in Section 210(c), then you can be charged with that offense years after it occurred.
Should the DNA Exception Rule Exist?
While some may argue that the DNA exception is valid on the basis of the reliability of DNA evidence, this theory relies on a faulty premise. DNA evidence is not always reliable. In fact, many recent studies have begun to show the potential flaws in DNA testing.
While DNA evidence is still considered the gold standard of forensic evidence, its fallibility calls into question the exception to statutes of limitations. Being charged with a crime years after the alleged incident occurred can be extremely difficult to defend and it may be hard to get a fair trial.
Call the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you are being charged with a sex crime, it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending persons accused of sex crimes for over 30 years. We can help you now.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney near you no matter where you are located.
Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will be there when you call.
1. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=799-805 href=”#ref1″>↩