Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kansas moves from 'the middle ages' on statute of limitations

Kansas lawmakers are considering increasing the statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual assaults and rape from five years after the crime or five years after the victim’s 18th birthday to 10 years after the crime or 10 years from when the victim turns 18.

About 20 states have no time limit for prosecuting rape, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. Kansas is among 10 states with limits of five years or less, although Kansas is among those with an exception that allows for prosecution within one year of a DNA match.

As research on the long term trauma endured by child victims of sexual assault became increasing available the Pennsylvania legislature moved to expand the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse twice in a little more than a decade.

Prior to 2002, the statute of limitations for pursuing criminal prosecution of child sexual assault was five years after the victims 18th birthday.

In 2002, the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse was extended to 12 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. In 2007, the statute of limitations was extended as part of a comprehensive package of statutes related to child abuse. As a result, the Commonwealth now has until the victim’s 50th birthday to file criminal charges for abuse that occurred before the victim turned 18.

Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said the state’s statute is left over from “the middle ages” when there were no fingerprints or DNA evidence in crimes. The state had a two-year statute of limitations. It was recently extended to five years.

“If it is a good case and we can prove the person did it… why on Earth would we let the criminals go free?”

He said the proposed law change won’t help past victims because it can’t be applied retroactively, but it will help future victims.

In Pennsylvania the new law applies to any case in which the statute of limitations had not yet expired before the law took effect. Pursuant to a 1988 Superior Court decision the time for prosecution may be extended by a legislative change if the prior period has not yet expired.

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