Statutes of limitations make it so a suspect has to be charged within a certain timeframe. The limitations are in place in order to prevent people from being charged with crimes based on evidence that has deteriorated over time.
Currently, there is a 20-year statute of limitations for rape and sexual battery cases in Ohio, meaning that prosecutors must file charges within 20 years of the alleged offense or they lose the opportunity to prosecute.
However, a new law that is expected to pass in Ohio would modify the statute of limitations from 20 to 25 years in rape and sexual battery cases. The law would also create a “floating” statute of limitations in these cases by affording prosecutors an additional five years from the time DNA from rape kits or crime scenes find a match.
The law goes hand-in-hand with an effort to test rape kits that have piled up on the shelves of police departments over the years. With the new laws, police could send the old rape kits for testing and upon identifying a suspect, file charges after the statute of limitations has passed.
According to an article in The Plain Dealer, there are as many as 700 rape cases that could be directly affected by the law. Reportedly, since March, police departments have sent more than 300 rape kits for testing, and since the testing efforts began in 2011, more than older 9,000 kits have been submitted.
Ultimately, the goal of the law is to be able to prosecute suspects who are identified by the old but recently-tested kits, who would otherwise be off-the-hook because the statute of limitations had passed.
But some defense lawyers argue that the plan is flawed. We will discuss why in our next post, so stay tuned.