Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What is the Statute of Limitations?

In the interest of pursuing real, egalitarian justice in the United States, the statute of limitations exists. In order to keep plaintiffs from preying on defendants at their most vulnerable and to keep evidence and other time-sensitive materials from being tampered with or deteriorating, the statute was put into place. For all practical purposes, it acts to allow justice to be served in a timely and swift manner.
The statute of limitations is the period of time in which prosecution for a crime must occur. This is meant to allow for a fair trial in the swiftest manner. For example, if a civil suit occurs, it protects the defendant from being sued when they are more successful or when their reputation would be more damaged. Additionally, it maintains that the evidence cannot have deteriorated and aspects of the case must still be relevant.

The length of the statute of limitations varies according to the severity of the crime. A misdemeanor, for example, would have a much shorter statute of limitations then a medical malpractice case. The most ‘heinous’ crimes do not ever expire. Murder as well as documented obstruction of justice does not have an expiration period.
Many issues with the statute of limitations have arisen, especially since the discovery of ‘recovered memory.’ In the case of certain offenses, the victim will mentally block out the incident and will not discover that abuse occurred until after the normal statute of limitations has expired. This is particularly prevalent in child sexual abuse cases. Commonly, the statute of limitations in that case begins at the discovery of the memory of the abuse and the ‘clock stops’ between the actual abuse incident and discovery.
The statute of limitations is generally well respected and of appropriate length to the offense. Exceptions occur, and in those cases, the courts carry out justice as is fitting in the case.

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