There are few criminal offenses worse than getting charged with a sex crime. Rape and sexual assault are some of the most heinous acts that can be committed by a human being. But what happens someone is charged with a sex crime that allegedly happened several years ago? The State of Utah has the strict statute of limitation rules that would prevent the prosecution of a suspect, even if they committed the alleged act. But how does statute of limitations work? Who is eligible?
What Is Statute of Limitations?
Under Utah criminal law, statute of limitations is defined as the amount of time given to file a court case. Depending on the crime, the statute of limitations for sex crime cases can range from as little as six months to as much as no limit for extremely serious crimes–even if the crime was allegedly committed decades ago. The majority of statutes of limitation are from one to eight years. Over the years, these laws have come into play in some of the most high profile sex crime cases. One of the most recent involved television icon Bill Cosby. Over the years, more than 50 women have come forward to accuse Cosby of rape. However, only one was able to press charges due to statute of limitations on the sex crime.
Utah Statute of Limitations
Utah criminal law allows certain cases to be prosecuted at any time, regardless of how long ago the alleged offense. The most serious include rape, murder, manslaughter or a capital felony. However, the Utah Code requires criminal cases involving forcible sexual abuse or incest to be prosecuted with 8 years. Countless people accused of sex crimes have had charges dropped due to the statute of limitations. In many of these cases, the victim waited far too many years to come forward. While some were afraid, others simply did not understand nor were they aware of the state’s statute of limitation guidelines. There three main reasons why the statute of limitations exists. They include:
- Preventing evidence from going stale
- Encourage more victims to come forward quickly
- Prevent the prosecution of long dormant crimes from clogging the court system
- Encourage both parties to move on with their lives
There are some exceptions. If a sex crime has been committed on a child, such as sexual assault, kidnapping, abuse or murder, the statute of limitations can be waived. The fundamental reason is because juveniles under the age of 14 cannot give legal consent under law, regardless of the circumstances.
Differences in Sex Crimes
The most obvious difference in the enforcement of Utah’s statute of limitations is between forcible sexual abuse from rape and aggravated sexual assault. Forcible sexual abuse has a statute of limitations because the state defines it as any touching under the clothing of private areas. Conversely, rape and sexual assault can be prosecuted at any time because there is physical bodily harm.
Why You Need a Salt Lake City Sex Crimes Attorney
If you have been accused of a sex crime in Utah, it is vital to have an experienced and knowledgeable legal professional who can protect your rights. The Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at White & Matern, PLLC understand the obstacles and challenges facing those accused of sex crimes. They utilize an aggressive and comprehensive approach to educate each client of their rights and to help them navigate effectively through the legal process. To learn more, contact criminal law office today and schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.