Many criminal charges are subject to the statute of limitations. This law forces prosecutors to file charges against an individual within a certain period of time. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to try to ensure evidence on which criminal charges are based is fresh. The length of the applicable statute of limitations varies depending on the alleged crime, and some offenses are not subject to these time restraints.
When it comes to sex crimes, prosecutors may file charges at any time if DNA evidence is linked to an unknown individual. However, if the source of the DNA is a known individual and that individual is suspected of committing a sex offense, then prosecutors have 10 years to file charges. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, an individual may be able to avoid serious penalties if the criminal allegations come after a certain period of time has elapsed since the claimed offense.
However, it is important to note when the statute of limitations’ clock starts ticking. For sex crimes, the 10 year statute of limitations for known individuals starts when DNA is obtained and linked to an individual whose legal name is known. Therefore, the clock does not start when DNA evidence is recovered or when an individual comes under suspicion, but when the DNA that is recovered as evidence is specifically tied to an individual.
Though statute of limitations issues do arise, more frequently charges are filed in a timely fashion. However, criminal defendants may still be able to utilize the passage of time to challenge an aggressive prosecution and fight back against false accusations. For example, evidence and witness accounts that are nine years old or older may not be all that reliable. This is why having a legal professional on one’s side can be beneficial, as an experienced attorney might be able to help an accused individual put forth a strong defense and potentially avoid penalties, including damage to reputation.
Source: Michigan Legislature, “The Code of Criminal Procedure,” accessed on Feb. 27, 2015