In Sex Crime, Can a Statue of Limitations Be Flexible?
A disturbing, but common fact pattern our office has repeatedly seen is sexual abuse of a step daughter by a step father. The daughter often comes forward as an older teenager or even young adult, often when her biological mother divorces the step father for reasons unrelated to sexual abuse. The statute of limitations then becomes an issue.The Readers’ Digest Version: The statute of limitations for certain sex offense cases used to be defendant’s best friend, but recent changes in the law have abolished the statute of limitations for certain more serious sex offenses and the following case, summarized below, suggests a “flexible” statute of limitations on other offenses.
The Third Appellate District Court in Sacramento rejected Smith’s arguments. The court looked at Penal Code § 803(f), which provides that a statute of limitations can be extended if the crime “involved substantial sexual conduct.” The term “substantial sexual conduct” is defined by Penal Code § 1203.066(b) and includes oral copulation, as well as “penetration of the vagina.”
The appellate court then pointed to the overall verdicts, saying that the jury must have found the victim to be a credible witness. The court seemed particularly swayed by evidence introduced at trial that Smith, after being divorced from the victim’s mother, became engaged to another woman also with a teenage daughter, who he attempted to molest, and when arrested, Smith had an Internet profile of a fifteen year old girl, on which was written, “moms with daughters lesbian chat room.”
In short, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s extension of the statute of limitations to convict Smith.
Update to the Issues in This Article: After January 1, 2017, there is no statute of limitations for rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, committed under certain circumstances.
For more information about issues common to sex offense cases and / or statutes of limitations, click on the following articles:
For summaries of some of the sex offense cases we have handled, view our Case Results.
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