It is not uncommon for an adult to allege that they were abused as a child. One problem with these types of cases is that they can arise decades after the abuse has occurred. This can make it difficult to properly investigate the allegation, ascertain evidence and facts, and even find witnesses. In addition to being difficult to prove, the alleged victim will likely face harsher scrutiny for waiting so long to come forward. Some states have a statute of limitations on prosecuting child sex crimes. Though victims argue that this puts them at a disadvantage, defense experts realize that the statute of limitations also helps to prevent false accusations and extremely difficult investigations.
A statute of limitation is a law that prevents prosecutors from bringing charges if the crime was committed more than a specific number of years ago. Statute of limitations are intended to ensure that convictions are based on physical and eyewitness evidence that has not deteriorated over time. Once a statute of limitation has passed, a prosecutor can no longer pursue that case. Our Birmingham sex crimes defense attorneys are experienced in providing representation to the accused and dedicated to staying abreast of legal issues that impact the lives of defendants in Alabama and nationwide.
Depending on which state an alleged victim reports a sex crime, the results will vary. For example, in the state of Virginia, there are no statute-of-limitations laws in child sex crimes cases. Last year a former teacher was sentenced to 43 years in prison for crimes that allegedly took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Though some see the statute of limitations as reigning in an already burdened criminal justice system and preventing frivolous lawsuits, victims see the statutes as severely limiting their rights. This case could potentially have a wider impact if Alabama follows the trend in abolishing civil statute-of-limitations in child sex crime cases.
In New York, victims’ rights advocates are fighting for a bill that would give them the right to file lawsuits against their offenders. The law would also eliminate all civil and criminal statutes of limitations for sex crimes against minors. The bill has passed four times in the state Assembly, then stalled in the Senate, but victims’ rights advocates plan to push the bill forward again this year. In addition to eliminating the statute-of-limitations, the bill would give victims a one-year window to bring claims in older cases of abuse. Critics of this window say that it would be difficult to prosecute and defend older victims.
In recent years, other states have dropped their statute-of limitations, including Illinois and Florida. Under Alabama law, there is a three year statute of limitations for felony sex abuse and for misdemeanor sexual abuse; however, there is no statute of limitations on rape cases in Alabama. Individuals who are under investigation of child sex crimes or who believe they may be charged with a crime should consult with an attorney about the specifics of their case. Charges and penalties will vary and it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of your rights under Alabama law.