A recent case heard by the Florida Supreme Court addressed the appealability of certain statutes of limitations. Statutes of limitations refer to the time period that someone has to bring a case in court. For criminal matters, the state is responsible for prosecuting certain crimes before a specific deadline that usually starts to elapse from the time the crime was committed. Generally, the more severe the crime, the longer the statute of limitations period. However, some kinds of crimes do not have statutes of limitations, such as murder and other life or capital felonies.
The purpose of statutes of limitations are threefold. First, to motivate the state to bring the charges sooner, as crimes should be prosecuted and the wrongdoer punished as soon as possible. Second, as the passage of time can affect the availability and quality of the evidence, a delay can prejudice the defendant because alibi witnesses may become unavailable. Finally, there is a belief that a defendant should not have to worry forever over a minor crime committed years ago.
Another important aspect of a statute of limitations for criminal charges is that the time does not run when the defendant is out of the state or does not have an ascertainable place to live or work. In other words, the state does not want to give a benefit to potential defendants who are hiding from prosecution. If the state has issued a summons or indictment against a defendant within the applicable period, it will usually suffice if there is no unreasonable delay. The court will look at the state’s attempts to locate the defendant and whether the defendant was actually in the state or not to determine what it “reasonable.”
The Defendant’s Case
In this appeal, the defendant attempted to use a statute of limitations defense for one of his charges. The defendant was arrested in 2011 after DNA evidence connected him to crimes committed over twenty years before his arrest. He was found guilty of burglary of a swelling with the intent to commit sexual battery or robbery, and sexual battery. On appeal, he argued that he should not have been prosecuted for armed burglary as the four year statute of limitations had elapsed.
However, the main issue was that the defendant did not bring this up in his initial trial. The first time he tried to use this defense was an appeal in the Florida Third District Court of Appeal. This case revolved around whether the court should allow this argument even though it was not brought up in the initial trial. Many defenses need to be brought up during the trial, or some kind of objection needs to be preserved in order to be used to overturn a conviction at the appeals level. The Florida Supreme Court here held that the defense needed to be brought up at the trial level and thus the defendant’s convictions on both counts will stand.
Contact an Experienced Clearwater Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Attorney Today!
Criminal charges – especially sex crimes – are a very serious matter. Luckily there are many laws in place, like statutes of limitations, which can be used by experienced attorneys to help defend you. The experienced Clearwater sex crimes criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm can look at your case and see whether there were any errors that may result in the conviction being thrown out or reduced. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our attorneys about your case as soon as possible.
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