Subsequently, the Supreme Court agreed with the offender and dismissed the indictment. The court also held that another legal toll that applies if an offender’s whereabouts are continuously unknown and continuously unascertainable by the exercise of reasonable diligence was not available in the situation because the police had not conducted the criminal investigation with due diligence.
Accordingly, the court granted leave to both parties and affirmed the decision.
Sources revealed that even if class A felonies and four specified class B felony sex offenses have no limitations period, all other felonies are covered by a five-year statute of limitations. Further, a two-year window applies to misdemeanor and petty offenses must be prosecuted within one year.
Moreover, if a crime governed by a statute of limitations, the general rule is that the time period commences when a criminal offense is committed. The provisions were adopted based on the legislature’s recognition that the child-victims of sex offenses cannot fully appreciate the crimes committed against them until they reach maturity, many child-victims are victimized by parents or other persons with whom they have a close relationship, and cannot reasonably be expected to report the crimes while they remain under the sway of their abusers.
Based on records, the law was a major component of the legislative package. It established that the statute of limitations in a prosecution of a sex offense committed against a minor does not begin to run until the child pornography had reached the age of eighteen or the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency or statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment, whichever occurs earlier. Delaying the commencement of the relevant limitations period until the age of maturity was intended to increase the likelihood that young adults, recently freed from a position of dependency, will disclose the offenses committed against them in order to seek remedy through the criminal justice system and that would also improve opportunities for preventing recurrences of the conduct by the offender. Even though majority age replaced the commission of the crime date as the general starting point for the statute of limitations, a legal exception starts the clock running sooner. The limitations period is triggered if the offense is reported to the police or to the central register for child abuse.
In this matter, the scope of the law is the central focus on the appeal, more particularly, what constitutes a report to law enforcement for statute of limitations purposes.
The case opened again for another review and the judge stated that in his view, an offense was reported to a law enforcement agency within the meaning of the law when a social worker notified the police that a fourteen years old girl, who was 12 weeks pregnant at the time, claimed to have been raped and impregnated by a fellow student. As a result, the second count of the indictment, which charges the girl’s step-grandfather with the crime of second-degree rape during the time, is time-barred.
The judge also agreed with the majority that the statute of limitations has not expired for the first and third counts, which charge the offender with second-degree rape at other times.
The judge further stated that he did not blame the police for accepting the girl’s explanation of consensual sex with a fellow student. Unfortunately, the version of the cause of her pregnancy, even though she was only 14 years old, is reasonable. Additionally, the police knew that the girl did not come willingly and her hand was forced by the sudden discovery at the health clinic of her pregnancy.
The judge asserted that if the reporting exception in the law has any meaning, though, the reports made to the police by the social worker and the girl are surely specific enough to qualify. Otherwise, the only report sufficient to start the clock running under the provision is one where the police, after investigating a specific allegation of child sexual abuse, proceed to indict someone. Drug possession was not a factor.
He further stated that the exception was intended to foreclose future prosecutions of anyone where the police, having received a specific allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, elect, for whatever reason, not to pursue the matter. As a result of the review, the judge affirmed the order.