Saturday, November 12, 2011

Penn State: The Investigation Could Continue for Decades

Child Victims Can Pursue Prosecutions for Years Into the Future

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly has made it clear that the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up is an on going investigation.  If there are additional alleged victims who claim to have be assaulted at the hands of Jerry Sandusky the state will have a very expansive statute of limitations at their disposal.  In Pennsylvania the statute of limitation to pursue a criminal prosecution of sex abuse against a child was greatly expanded. The new law took effect on January 28, 2007 extending the statute of limitation until a child victims turns age 50.

That is a significant change within only the last ten years.  Prior to 2002, the statute ran for only five years after the victims 18th birthday.  In 2002, the statute of limitation was extended to 12 years.

The special statute of limitations for sexual offenses committed against minors applies to the following charges: rape, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, indecent exposure, incest, endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, sexual abuse of children, sexual exploitation of children.

According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the new statute of limitations applies to any case in which the statute of limitations had not yet expired before the new law took effect.  Pursuant to Commonwealth v. Harvey, 542 A.2d 1027 (Pa. Super. 1988), the time for prosecution may be extended by a legislative change if the prior statutory period has not yet expired. To determine whether the statute has expired, the date of the victim’s 18th birthday is more important than the date of the commission of the offense.
On August 27, 2002, the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse was extended to 12 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. That change in the statute of limitations applied to cases in which a child victim turned 18 on or after August 27, 2002. Since the 12-year period has not yet expired before the new law took effect, the statute of limitations for cases under the 2002 amendment has now been extended to the victim’s 50th birthday.

For cases involving child victims who turn 18 on or after August 27, 2002, the Commonwealth now has until the victim’s 50th birthday to file criminal charges for abuse that occurred before the victim turned 18.
For example, if a child victim turned 18 years of age in 2003 and was victimized at the age of six, he would have until 2035 to pursue a criminal prosecution for an offense that occured in approximately 1991.

It would appear that any child allegedly abused by Sandusky who turned 18 after August 27, 2002 could pursue criminal a prosecution for decades into the future.

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