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Should there be statutes of limitations? *Update*

28 Sep

i.e. a specified time limit, after the alleged commission of a crime, during which the accuser(s) must file a claim against the accuser, beyond which time period legal proceedings can no longer commence?

I’m not completely sure what I think, but I lean strongly towards believing they ought to exist.

On the one hand, we as Christians do believe that morality is absolute, that some things are right and some things are wrong, and that crimes ought to be punished by earthly magistrates, period; that such is a big part of what governments are for.

But… I am equally convinced that justice ought to occur in a timely manner, and that if a party is wronged, they ought to act quickly upon it, so that justice can be done sooner, and prevent the delay of administering such justice; and that legislation that has the effect of encouraging action to be taken at an earlier date is wise and prudent. If someone is truly victimized, seeing those who victimized them brought to justice earlier, rather than later, is surely better for victims, waiting until a future date. Why would one want to wait, anyway?

I am also concerned, with the higher rates of false accusations of sexual assault men face these days compared to in yesteryear, of a greater opportunity for injustice to occur, in terms of false accusations, precisely because of a lack of statutes of limitations on such, and here’s why I have such fears: there is usually less evidence as time goes on. Physical scars can and may heal; DNA evidence can deteriorate with time, etc. And so I’m convinced that with the physical evidence decaying, that, as with ‘human rights tribunals’ (i.e. inhuman wrongs kangaroo courts), in which the tradition of English common law (‘innocent until proven guilty’) is more or less overturned in favour of a French civil law type scenario (‘guilty until proven innocent’), where one has to try to prove that one is not ‘racist’, ‘prejudiced’, etc., that more weight may be given to simply the accusations themselves, and less to any possible evidence for them, and thus the defendant may be less well able to defend himself, in such a climate.

Some jurisdictions will punish abused mothers who stay with men who abuse both them and their children, reasoning that while a woman in an abusive relationship may have a choice to stay in the relationship with the abuser, as a mother she has a higher duty to protect her children from harm, and that insofar as she fails in that regard, while she may be a victim of domestic abuse herself she is nevertheless an accessory to the abuse they suffer, because she fails to protect them from it, even though she could, by leaving the abuser.

I think this is fair, and similarly, I think that encouraging crime victims to believe that they are not merely victims but remain moral agents, with moral obligations to pursue justice sooner rather than later, is also fair – and probably fairer both for them and those they accuse than putting it off till many years later.

*Update: from deti, in the comments:

This is relevant:  California Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown just signed a bill to end the statute of limitations for rape in that state.   That means a prosecution for rape or sexual assault may be brought at any time.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/california-eyeing-cosby-ends-statute-of-limitations-for-rape/ar-BBwKSdu?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=iehp

Relevant indeed, bro!

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16 Comments

Posted by on September 28, 2016 in law

 

16 responses to “Should there be statutes of limitations? *Update*

  1. thedeti

    September 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Yes, there should be statutes of limitations for crimes and torts, for all the reasons you mentioned, and more.

    –All parties have an interest in finality and the speedy resolution of disputes.

    –the State has an interest in the speedy prosecution of crimes. If the State has evidence a crime was committed, the State should either (1) gather and marshal the evidence before appropriate tribunals so a resolution can be had; or (2) let the evidence wither away and not prosecute.

    –people who believe they’ve suffered private wrongs (i.e. torts) have an interest in obtaining damages or other appropriate remedies for their wrongs.

    –society has an interest in the integrity of its systems of dispute resolution. The prosecution of stale offenses and people suing for stale wrongs undermines that integrity and can cause others to believe justice isn’t just. Examples – people being prosecuted for known events years after the fact using trumped up, flimsy or unreliable evidence, waiting until exculpatory evidence has disappeared or gone stale, using disproportionate State power to generate and preserve evidence while waiting for exculpatory evidence to disappear or go stale, etc.

    –potential criminal defendants have an interest in not being prosecuted for stale offenses when exculpatory evidence is gone or no longer available, witnesses’ memories have faded, the available evidence is old and unreliable, etc.

    –potential tort defendants have an interest in not being sued for stale wrongs, for the same reasons as above.

     
    • Will S.

      September 28, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Good points, deti.

       
  2. thedeti

    September 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I’m not sure what this means:

    “I am also concerned, with the higher rates of false accusations of sexual assault men face these days compared to in yesteryear, of a greater opportunity for injustice to occur, in terms of false accusations, precisely because of a lack of statutes of limitations on such”

    Most states have statutes of limitation on both criminal prosecutions for sexual assault and tort lawsuits for sexual assault. The issue is “discovery” of the “sexual assault”. Some women who claim to have been raped say they didn’t “know” they were raped until years later. (How this can be I’m not sure.) Many more will rake much muck with claims of sexual assault that were NEVER reported to the police.

    That’s why I take a hard line on claims of sexual assault/rape. The only way I personally assign any credibility at all to a rape/assault claim is if the woman victim IMMEDIATELY reported it to police and went to a hospital to have a rape kit done, or the victim did the rape kit at the hospital and told the ER personnel to call 911 and get an officer to the hospital to take her statement.

    No call to the police? No rape.

    No rape kit done at a hospital? No rape.

    Immediate police/medical care involvement are the baseline requirements in my book for a claim of sexual assault to have any credibility.

     
    • Will S.

      September 28, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Canadian law is different:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations#Canada

      I wish, in this regard, that our laws were more like American ones.

       
    • Will S.

      September 28, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      I agree re: claims of assault / rape. Anyone who doesn’t report immediately, I am disinclined to believe.

       
      • feeriker

        September 28, 2016 at 1:53 pm

        I’m actually amused by women who attempt to pursue rape charges years after the alleged event who claim that their reason for not doing so right after the crime occurred was “shame,” “publicity,” or some other such excuse. So how is postponing justice for years preventive of either of those two things? Prosecution, for rape or any other crime, is going to be public whether it takes place within weeks after the event or decades later.

         
      • Will S.

        September 29, 2016 at 3:23 am

        Yeah, I’ve never understood such arguments, either.

         
  3. feeriker

    September 28, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Ditto what thedeti said.

    Prosecuting ancient crimes after evidence has aged beyond usefulness, witnesses are dead or whose memories of the crime are long debilitated, and the damage from which is no longer evident do not merit prosecution. Far too often, as Will alludes to in the OP, prosecutions of such crimes (and attendant civil litigation) are politically or economically motivated, not quests for justice or equitable restitution.

     
  4. Saracen III

    September 28, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    I am entirely comfortable with a blanket 20-year statute of limitations,
    mass-murder and whispering-in-theatres included.

    20 years can be enough for a deeply traumatised person to get a handle on that experience,
    and an approaching statute-of-limitations may bring focus.

    In cases where a perpetrator has got clean away,
    the benefit of learning what happened outweighs the satisfaction of punishment.

     
    • Will S.

      September 29, 2016 at 3:27 am

      I’m not completely sure whether you’re serious or ‘taking the piss’, as Brits say. 🙂

       
  5. thedeti

    September 28, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    This is relevant: California Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown just signed a bill to end the statute of limitations for rape in that state. That means a prosecution for rape or sexual assault may be brought at any time.

    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/california-eyeing-cosby-ends-statute-of-limitations-for-rape/ar-BBwKSdu?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=iehp

     
    • Will S.

      September 29, 2016 at 3:11 am

      Wow; thanks for the tip!

       
    • Will S.

      September 29, 2016 at 4:14 am

      I’ve updated the post accordingly.

       
    • feeriker

      September 29, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Not at all surprising.

       

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