A statute of limitations in criminal cases generally refers to the time limits for prosecutors to charge a person with a criminal offense. These limits often come up in child sex crimes and other cases in Florida. As the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, prosecutors generally can’t charge someone with a crime after the limitations period has expired.
A defendant was charged with three sex crimes stemming from an incident involving his former girlfriend’s young daughters. The girls had been abandoned by their mother, according to the court, and were living with their grandmother at the time. The defendant still saw the children from time to time. The incident occurred while the two girls and their brother were helping him clean his apartment and staying overnight. First, he allegedly asked the 12-year-old daughter to massage his penis. The girl complied, despite saying that she didn’t want to do it, according to the court. He then led the girl into the bathroom and had sex with her. Later during the night, he allegedly rubbed the 10-year-old daughter’s breasts and vagina while she was sleeping.
The defendant was convicted following trial for sexual battery on a child, lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between the ages of 12 and 16, and lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under the age of 12. He was designated a sexual predator and sentenced to 75 years in prison.
On appeal, however, the Fourth District agreed with the defendant that he should not have been convicted on the second count for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between the ages of 12 and 16. That’s because the statute of limitations for that crime was three years in 2004. That means that prosecutors generally had to charge a defendant with the offense within three years of the time he allegedly committed it. In child sex cases, the limitations period usually doesn’t start to run until the victim turns 18, the court explained. There’s an exception, however, for instances in which the crime is reported to law enforcement. In those cases, the limitation period starts as soon as the report is made.
Here, the appeals court said the victim reported the crime to the Department of Children and Families in August 2006. The defendant was not charged with the crime until 2010. As a result, the charge was barred under the statute of limitations. The Fourth District affirmed the other two convictions, however, explaining that they were covered by different limitations periods.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. Clearwater sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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