Welcome back. In our last post, we discussed how Ohio lawmakers are expected to pass a law that would change the statute of limitations from 20 to 25 years in rape and sexual battery cases and add a “floating” statute of limitations in cases involving DNA evidence from rape kits or crime scenes.
In those cases, prosecutors would be given five years from the time a DNA match is made for charges to be filed -- no matter how old the alleged crime was -- thereby skipping the statute of limitations.
However, as we alluded to in the last post, many criminal defense lawyers say that law presents constitutional problems.
A representative of Ohio Public Defender's office told The Plain Dealer that the law change creates an unfair “two-tier system” depending on the type of evidence involved. For example, in cases involving no DNA evidence, the traditional statute of limitations would apply, while in cases involving DNA evidence, the additional five-year window applies.
As we have discussed in a past post, the Ohio Supreme Court has already declared that suspects cannot face different punishments based on the “type” of evidence used against them.
In that case, the Court wrote: “(Legislators have) unconstitutionally created two different sanctions to be imposed on offenders who commit the same crime-differentiated only by the quantity of the evidence presented to prove guilt.”
It could be argued that the “floating” statute of limitations does the same by increasing the window of time a person can be charged, the Ohio Public Defender's office rep said.
If what has been proposed does become law, people who are accused of rape and sexual battery that allegedly occurred more than 20 years ago will definitely need to consult an experienced defense attorney to make sure that their rights are protected.