Call to End Child Sex Crimes Prosecution Time Limit by Illinois AG
On April 27, 2016, a court sentenced Dennis Hastert to 15 months in federal jail in a very high-profile and public case. The former U.S. House Speaker was convicted of violating banking laws in connection to hush money used to cover sexual abuse allegations made against him more than 30 years ago. Because the statute of limitations on the sex crimes had expired, Hastert could not be criminally charged in relation to the sex abuse allegations.
This situation lead to Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General, publicly calling on lawmakers to remove the statute of limitations on felony sex crimes committed against children. Such a change would allow states to prosecute these cases no matter how much time has passed since the alleged incident.
Defense expert weighs in
As reported by the Pantagraph, the possible removal of time limits when it comes to the prosecution of crime could put innocent people at risk and undermine the fairness that needs to be part of the legal process.
Southern Illinois University Criminal Law Professor William Schroeder said the removal of the statute of limitations is dangerous in part because the memories of both the alleged perpetrators and victims will become less reliable as more time goes by. He feels there needs to be a balance between the interest of society in prosecuting wrongdoers and people’s interest in not being convicted of crimes they are not guilty of.
The connection of time to criminal defense
While Illinois Deputy State Appellate Defender David Bergschneider did say his office does not have an official stance on the Attorney General’s proposal, he also noted that the very idea raises concerns because of how the passage of time affects a case. The statute of limitations is supposed to help protect innocent people because presenting a defense becomes increasingly difficult as more time passes between the alleged event and the present day.
For example, if a person is charged with committing a crime on a specific day 20 years ago, it would be very hard for them to remember important things such as what they did or where they were that day. On the other hand, a person who is charged with something that allegedly happened a month ago will have a much stronger recollection of the day’s events and his or her movements. The same time-passing memory trouble also applies to other relevant people in the case, including witnesses.
If you’re facing charges for sex crimes or other serious allegations, contact seasoned criminal defense attorneys in Jacksonville IL as soon as possible. Being convicted of a sex crime will have serious repercussions on the rest of your life, so don’t risk going into the court process without experienced legal help on your side.