Should Illinois Do Away with Statute of Limitations on Child Sex CrimesPublished: May 24, 2016, by in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog, Sex Crimes
The high-profile case of former U.S House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who was able to escape prosecution for sexual molestation allegations that occurred decades ago, has raised renewed conversation as to the statute of limitation on sexual offenses involving children.
There are many arguments for and against the removal of the statute of limitation on what is considered to be crimes that are disturbing to the general public. While proponents of the statute of limitation identify the feature as an integral part of any criminal judicial system, opponents see it as a bar to gaining justice for victims who feel too vulnerable or afraid to come forward within the statutory time.
Why is There a Statute of Limitations?
There is a legal purpose for a statute of limitation. It has been part of the legal jurisprudence for more than 1,000 years and the founding principle is that people should not be living with the fear of pending civil or criminal litigation.
However, while the statute of limitation has found some favor in the civil law, it is not always welcomed when it comes on to crimes and quite rightly so since not all crimes carry a statute of limitation. For example, there is no bar to prosecuting a murder case, even decades later.
In addition to the legal foundation, the statute of limitations in a criminal matter has practical reasoning. The longer a victim takes to come forward, the fewer chances of corroborating evidence being available. The retirement or death of investigating officers, memory of potential witnesses and the loss or destruction of tangible evidence are all obstacles to pursuing a criminal prosecution after a long time.
In 2013, there were steps to remove the statute of limitation on sexual offenses involving minors. However, the legislative change was only a partial one as it only applied to a limited category of sex crimes involving children. For the most part, a child victim of a sex crime has 20 years post his or her 18th birthday to go to the police.
Despite the uproar surrounding this recent high profile case, the Illinois’ time period for reporting such crime is view as generous compared to a number of other states. But of note, there are some states that do not carry a statute of limitation on sex crimes involving children.
Balancing the Scale
The issue is indeed a very interesting and provoking one. The conversation to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex crimes is filled with emotion and rage, especially when the public assumes that there was sufficient evidence to nail a child molester and put him or her behind bars.
But the conversation is loaded with good arguments on both sides. How do legislators seek to protect defendants from potentially false accusations and extreme delay in a prosecution that can lead to an inability to defend, while calming the public’s outrage at crimes against the children of our nation?
How a Chicago Sex Crimes Lawyer Can Help You
There is no doubt that the conversation will continue and it will be interesting to see how Illinois’ elected representatives will respond. Michael O’Meara is Chicago sex crimes lawyer providing comprehensive legal representation to individuals charged in Chicago, Illinois. If you have been charged with a criminal sex charge like statutory rape, or another type of sex crime in Illinois, don’t hesitate to contact a Chicago sex crimes lawyer from O’Meara Law LLC at 312-909-0706. During your appointment, you get a straightforward explanation of what to expect from the criminal legal process and an assessment of your options for a defense.