The criminal justice system is a complex and nuanced web of organizations, efforts and principles. One element of the criminal justice system that can be confusing is the concept referred to as statutes of limitation.
Governor Scott Walker recently signed a bill eliminating the statute of limitations for violent crimes in Wisconsin. The new law applies to certain attempted homicides and certain sex crimes.
Practically speaking, a statute of limitation bars law enforcement from prosecuting crimes after a certain amount of time has passed. The new law will enable prosecution of persons accused of certain crimes at any point in their lives.
Specifically, the bill targets those accused of first and second degree attempted homicides, first degree attempted sexual assault and first degree sexual assault. Persons will not be prosecuted if the statute of limitations has already run out in regards to their particular alleged crime.
The bill, the Justice for Survivors Act, is meant to serve as a deterrent for violent crime.
Critics of eliminating statutes of limitation point out that these regulations were originally conceived because evidence and witness memory becomes more unreliable over time. These facts have not changed simply because the clock will now keep running on open cases.
In addition to the bill eliminating the statutes of limitation for violent crime, Governor Walker signed two other significant laws into passage last week. One allows for hearsay testimony at preliminary criminal hearings and one makes conviction for certain attempted child sex crimes punishable by sentences as harsh as those for committing the crimes themselves.
Source: WBAY News, “New Law Eliminates Statute of Limitations on Violent Crimes: Updated,” Kate Raddatz, Apr. 12, 2012