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Should there be no statue of limitations for rape and sexual battery?

posted 6/5/2013 1:13:49 PM |
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Two state senators are proposing that Ohio do away with its statute of limitations for rape and sexual battery.

That means rape charges could be brought any time during the life of the suspect, no matter how many years after the offense.

Senate Bill 83, introduced by Democratic state Sens. Nina Turner of Cleveland and Capri Cafaro of Hubbard, would do away with Ohio’s 20-year statute of limitations.

As recently as 1999, the legislature extended the statute of limitations to 20 years for rape and other violent crimes, including kidnapping and robbery. Before that, all felonies had a six-year statute of limitations; for misdemeanors, it was two years, and minor misdemeanors, six months.

Except for the handful of states that have banished statutes of limitations for rape, which includes neighboring Kentucky, Ohio’s 20-year limit is among the longest. Laws vary widely, but a number of states allow 10 or 15 years to bring rape charges.

The reason for limitation statutes is that the state needs to bring criminal charges within a reasonable time. Otherwise, evidence is lost or degrades, memories get fuzzy, witnesses die.

What time period is right? As Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says any statute of limitations is going to be arbitrary. It reflects a society’s feeling about a particular crime. For example, murder and aggravated murder are the only crimes that do not have a statute of limitations, because murder is considered so heinous that a person who commits it never should be beyond the reach of the law.

Rape certainly is a grave violation. The victim is harmed psychologically as well as physically. But one could say the same for any sufficiently violent crime. Should limitation statues be eliminated for other violent crimes also?

The attorney general supports SB 83. He cites the recent discovery of thousands of unprocessed rape kits around the state, which his office is working to test. DNA technology is doing amazing things: 27 percent of the kits tested so far have been matched to someone in the state’s database. He said his office has prioritized the oldest kits and, at this point, will be able to give prosecutors the results with at least a year to spare on the statute of limitations.

But in one regrettable case in Cleveland in March, an indictment based on one of these long-untested rape kits was returned by a grand jury 20 years and one day after the assault and couldn’t be prosecuted.

A compromise advocated by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association already has been adopted by several other states: Keep the 20-year statute of limitations, except in cases in which DNA was taken. Give those cases an extension. DNA is solid enough evidence, even decades later, upon which to win a conviction.

DeWine doesn’t agree with such an approach, asking why two victims of the same crime should receive different opportunities for justice — just because DNA happens to be available in one case and not the other?

But that’s reality. Sometimes people commit crimes but the evidence isn’t there to prove it, and those criminals walk. Even extending the statute of limitations wouldn’t necessarily change that.

The Columbus Dispatch

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Comments:

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sawduster

Jun 5 @ 2:06PM  
20 years may not be long enough for the crimes committed in the past, but for anything newer, it should be sufficient. The problem, money, or a lack there of to actually go after and prosecute the guilty. And space to house the offenders. Jails and prisons are full, and not enough money in many states budgets to build or even expand them. There is no easy answer, but the victims should have the knowledge that the perpetrator was finally caught and punished.
countryblues966

Jun 5 @ 2:29PM  
There have been many "cold cases" solved that were more than 20 years old! Rape is a violent crime that should not have any statue of limitations.
somnium

Jun 5 @ 10:40PM  
Should there be no statue of limitations for rape and sexual battery?

In a word, NO!

mynameismarie

Jun 6 @ 2:24AM  
And in another word, YES!

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Should there be no statue of limitations for rape and sexual battery?