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Ohio bill could overrule rape statute of limitations

In our last post, we explained how statutes of limitation were adopted in order to make sure that criminal convictions are not made based on evidence that has deteriorated over time.

For that reason, prosecutors often only have a limited number of years to file charges for various crimes, and when that time runs out, the criminal is essentially a free man or woman, a FindLaw.com article explains.

For example, Ohio statutes of limitation include:

  • Charges must be filed within one year of discovery of offense for fraud or breach of fiduciary duty
  • Charges must be filed within two years of discovery of offense for official misconduct
  • Charges must be filed within 20 years of discovery of offense for attempted or completed manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, compelling prostitution, arson, robbery, burglary, aggravated riot, felonious or aggravated assault of a peace officer, felonious assault, or conspiracy.

However, a new law has been proposed in the Ohio legislature that would change one of those. A bill introduced last week would allow prosecutors to file rape and sexual battery charges after 20 years have passed so long as DNA evidence is found, the Associated Press reported.

The bill was introduced to co-exist with an initiative that was announced in 2011 by the attorney general that provides free DNA testing to law enforcement agencies with untested rape kits. This means kits from alleged rapes occurring more than 20 years ago could lead to new prosecutions.

As a criminal defense lawyer, this is a far-reaching bill that could have major implications for people who end up being charged, if the bill passes into law.

The purpose of statutes of limitation are to make sure that old and tainted evidence does not lead to criminal convictions, which could happen as a result of this bill.

We will be sure to follow the developments of the bill closely during the legislative session.

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