Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations and Why They Are Important

Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations, Illinois sexual assault attorney, Illinois defense lawyer,Recently, the press has been regularly reporting on sexual assault allegations various women have leveled against comedian and actor Bill Cosby. With the stories about Cosby often come discussions of how statute of limitations will prevent him from being charged with some crimes in some jurisdictions. This has led to many discussions that use these allegations to argue that statutes of limitations should be eliminated. It is important to understand what the statutes of limitations actually are here in Illinois, and to understand why statutes of limitations are an absolutely essential part of any fair criminal justice system.

Illinois Statute of Limitations

Illinois statutes set out different time frames in which criminal charges can be filed after a crime is allegedly committed. These charges can be filed at any time:

  • First degree murder;
  • Attempted first degree murder;
  • Second degree murder;
  • Involuntary manslaughter;
  • Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death;
  • Reckless homicide;
  • Failing to give information and render aid under Section 11-403;
  • Concealment of a homicidal death;
  • Treason;
  • Arson;
  • Residential arson;
  • Aggravated arson;
  • Forgery;
  • Certain child pornography crimes; and
  • Any sex crime involving sexual conduct or sexual penetration where there is DNA that is entered into a DNA database within 10 years of the offense.

There are special statutes of limitations for other sex crimes and child pornography crimes that allow child victims time after their 18th birthday to come forward. Some other sex crimes have a 10-year statute of limitations, but only if the accuser reports the offense to police within three years of the alleged offense date. There are also special time lines for certain financial crimes. Crimes covered by the Environmental Protection Act have a five-year statute of limitations.

Otherwise, the general statute of limitations for felonies is three years. For misdemeanors it is one year and six months.

One thing that is clear is that these statutes are very complicated, which is one of the reasons you will need a criminal attorney if you are charged with a crime. Another thing that is important to understand is that statutes of limitations can change, just like any other law. The statutes we have talked about here apply to crimes that are committed now. A crime that was committed at some point in the past may fall under a different statute of limitations.

Why Statutes of Limitations are Necessary

The argument against statutes of limitations is usually fairly simple—they allow guilty people to escape prosecution. And that is true. But sometimes, that might not be so bad. Imagine, for a moment, the person who commits a crime, but then rather than continuing a life of crime instead totally turns him or herself around. The person gets an education, gets a job, volunteers in his or her community, and is truly rehabilitated. The person makes the community better by being in it. Forty years go by and he or she is finally tied to that youthful act. The only purpose served by prosecuting at that point would be to seek vengeance. Now, for some crimes like murder, we, as a society, have decided that the crimes are so awful that there should be no statute of limitations and pure vengeance is a good enough reason. But not all crimes are as serious, which is why, from a public policy standpoint, it is a good idea to have statutes of limitations.

But what about sexual assault cases? They are some of the more serious charges in our system, which is why in the modern era they often have no statute of limitations or have one that is so long that it effectively acts as if there were no statute of limitations. But these cases also provide a perfect example of why statutes of limitations are vital to a fair justice system. Take, for example, an accused man who has an alibi. If he is charged with a crime in a timely fashion, it should be pretty easy for him to prove his alibi. But if decades go by before charges are filed, proving that alibi (or even remembering that he has one) could become impossible. Locating witnesses also becomes much more difficult. When one is quickly charged with a crime, he can have an investigator look for witnesses near the alleged crime scene who may be able to provide evidence of his innocence. When twenty years elapse before charges are filed, that evidence is lost forever.

Criminal Defense Attorney

If you find yourself accused of a crime that is alleged to have happened many years ago, you will need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact the experienced Chicago criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel and schedule a consultation. We can determine whether the delays in prosecution provide you with a defense, and if not, we can work to provide you with the best possible alternative defense.

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