The Statute of Limitations has changed over the years, and it appears that there have been attempts made to make it better, but it has not been enough. Currently there is a complicated equation that someone must use to determine if a child molester can be prosecuted after time has passed. That equation gets more complicated because in most cases crimes committed before the change in the statute are grandfathered into the previous statute definitions.
For example, in Connecticut the statute of limitations states that a child sex offender can be prosecuted until it is 30 years after the 18th birthday of the victim, unless the police knew about the crime, then it is 5 years after the police were made aware. This seems pretty good, until you realize that this portion of the statute was changed in 1997, and so because of that, any crime committed in 1997 or before falls into another statute. That being 10 years after the victim turns 18, or 5 years after the police are made aware of the crime.
The question here is why? Why grandfather crimes? Saying a crime committed in 1997 is more important than one committed in 1996 seems strange. Not to mention it sends the message that the pain and anguish experienced by someone in 1996 is not worth investigating or prosecuting but that pain and anguish for the 1997 crime is.
I am sure there is not data out there that answers this question, but I wonder how many people commit crimes saying “Well in 5 years I am out of the woods”. Because that would be the only reason to grandfather these crimes. It is saying that it would be unfair to criminals who committed their crimes before a certain time simply because at the time the committed the crime they thought they had 10 years to get away with it, and we wouldn’t want to burden them with an additional 20 years.
Most (if not all) states have crimes that aren’t affected by the statute of limitations. In most cases these are capital crimes. That means that there is an understanding that some crimes are heinous enough to attempt to bring criminals to justice no matter how many years have passed. Why then would we say that other crimes should have a longer time to prosecute, but we are going to cap it at a certain number of years after? What makes 10 years or even 30 years the point? Again, it is not like criminals are setting reminders on their calendars for when they are free and clear.
Many people state that the issue with unlimited time to file charges has two major issues. First is the inability to successfully prosecute due to lack of evidence, and deterioration of memory of events. And Second is that someone’s ability to defend themselves against charges becomes more difficult as time goes by, as alibis and witnesses are difficult to get as time goes by.
The first argument, while seemingly valid, does not hold up. All crimes are prosecuted using evidence and witness testimony. If the evidence is there, then the case moves forward, if the evidence is not there then there is no path to prosecution. And by removing the Statute I am not asking for a free pass to trial, I am simply asking for the ability to attempt to bring crimes to trial. If a case is brought up 60 years after the fact, then there needs to be evidence that passes the test of time, or it doesn’t matter. In my specific case my memory of the events is clear, and any evidence that existed at the time the crime occurred, exists today. Bringing charges would be no different today, than 20 years ago. Except now I wouldn’t be a timid child on the stand, who was still insecure about coming forward.
The second argument has the same problems as the first. But add to that, the fact that recollection and evidence deterioration only works for the defense. The harder time finding evidence to disprove charges means that the evidence to prove it is also as difficult to find.
And while I understand that I sit from a position of certainty of my abusers guilt, and so that means I know that he is guilty, I understand that everyone has the right to defend themselves and be presumed innocent until proven guilty. I am just trying to ensure that the presumption of innocence does not extend just because they were able to intimidate or destroy their victims to the point they just have to wait out a time limit.
I want to leave you with two pieces of information:
- The federal statute of limitations for art theft is longer than the statute of limitations child molestation.
- Look at most cases of child molestation where the abuser was someone in power (Boy Scout leader, Priest, Coach) and notice how many come to light after the victims are adults for a while. Remember these crimes breed uncertainty in the victims. They use their crime to help them get away with their crime.
Please share this, and my previous post, and let’s make sure these criminals don’t get away with their crimes.