Time Limit for Child Sex Cases Is Expanded
By Domingo Ramirez Jr.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram [Texas]
July 15, 2006
Technology and abuse by clergy have helped lead to a longer statute of limitations for sex crimes against children in Texas, experts and attorneys say.
And the prosecution of such crimes as indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child may one day have no time limits, experts say.
"That seems to be the trend," said Raymond Teske, a criminal-justice professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.
Most states have laws limiting the time during which crimes against children — other than murder — can be prosecuted. All states have time limits for suing suspects.
Teske noted that DNA and allegations of child abuse by Roman Catholic priests have prompted many states to extend the time limits for prosecution.
In Texas, laws once limited prosecutors to five years after a victim of indecency or aggravated sexual assault turned 18. Now they have 10 years.
"Extending the time makes it harder for prosecutors," said Mitch Poe, a Tarrant County assistant district attorney and head of the crimes against children division. "But science will only get better and better in prosecuting those types of cases."
Criminal defense attorney Gary Medlin of Fort Worth doesn't want the time limits extended further.
"I think it would just be crazy," Medlin said. "A case ought to be resolved in a reasonable amount of time. That's the reason for limitations."
In Texas, Poe noted, children who don't report abuse within the time limit could still be called as witnesses in another case against a suspect, no matter their age.
"I've had many adults come forward as witnesses through the years."
In the know Other states
These states have no statute of limitations for rape, regardless of the victim's age:
SOURCE: The National Center for Victims of Crime
Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-685-3822
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