Recent high-profile sex cases have stirred up public opinion regarding statutes of limitations. Due to cases like Bill Cosby’s sexual assault allegations, renewed attention is being directed to the existence of statutes of limitations on sex-related cases.
Very little focus, though, is given to the purpose and reasoning behind these statutes of limitations. While some may think statutes of limitations should be eliminated, statutes of limitations help protect the constitutional rights of citizens. So why exactly do statutes of limitations exist on sex crimes?
What are Statutes of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a time limit on the ability to charge someone with a crime. Once a certain amount of time has passed since the alleged incident occurred, a criminal complaint can no longer be filed.
The statute of limitations varies by crime. In California, sexual assault generally has a six year statute of limitations, and child molestation has a ten year statute of limitations.
Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes: A Balancing Act
The goal of statutes of limitations is to balance the rights of victims to bring complaints with the rights of the accused. In the criminal justice system, all individuals accused of a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This logic helps explain statutes of limitations. Potential defendants should be presumed innocent, and if enough time has passed they should be able to move on with their lives without worrying about charges being brought against them.
There is a practical element to statutes of limitations as well. As any prosecutor knows, the longer it takes for a victim to come forward with accusations that a crime occurred, the more difficult it is to establish exactly what happened. Memories fade, evidence deteriorates, and witness accounts become less reliable. Statutes of limitations encourage charges to be brought in a timely manner and help keep the court system from becoming clogged with dated accusations.
Potential defendants also have reason to want victims to come forward soon after the crime was committed. Witness testimony could also apply to your defense to a crime. Finding witnesses to corroborate where you were yesterday is easy – try it ten years from now, and you may run into problems. People who can account for your whereabouts may be deceased and records that help show where you were may be lost.
Without statutes of limitations on sex crimes, it is far too easy for people to lose their ability to have a fair trial. The needs of victims shouldn’t come before the needs of defendants because everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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 at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully defending persons accused of sex crimes for over 30 years. Let us 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.