Statute of Limitations on Child Sex Crimes
In the wake of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s sentencing in a case arising out of decades-old sexual abuse offenses, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) have called on the Illinois legislature to eliminate the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes committed against children.
Elimination of the Statute of Limitations
Madigan and ICASA would like the statute of limitations for felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse offenses committed against children to be eliminated in the state of Illinois. Getting rid of the statute of limitations would allow those who were abused as children to step forward, report the crimes, and get justice. This would give them time to process the abuse and come forward when they are ready.
Not being able to indict an abuser because the statute of limitations has run “raises serious moral, legal, and ethical questions,” said Madigan. Polly Poskin, the executive director of ICASA, noted that it is very difficult for childhood sex abuse victims to step forward, especially as abusers are often in positions of trust, such as teachers or coaches.
The statute of limitations for a crime is the time after which criminal charges cannot be brought against the alleged perpetrator. Currently, there is no statute of limitations on felony sex offenses against children if there is physical evidence or if someone who was legally obligated to report abuse failed to do so. However, this law was signed in 2013, and is not retroactive. In other cases, the victim has up to 20 years after reaching age 18 to step forward and bring allegations to the attention of police and prosecutors.
Madigan’s and ICASA’s statement was issued a day after former House Speaker and Illinois Congressman Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison for a hush-money case, though the statement did not mention Hastert by name. Hastert was sentenced for violating banking laws when he paid millions of dollars to cover up sexual abuse that he committed while he was a high school wrestling coach. He had structured financial transactions to hide payments to one of the boys he had molested.
Hastert admitted to molesting underage boys, but could not be charged with any crime for the sexual abuse because the statute of limitations had expired. His time as a coach ended in 1981, and it had been well over 20 years before any victim came forward.
Some criminal defense experts, however, have called the proposal dangerous. They note that there are reasons to have a statute of limitations. One main reason is that people’s memories, including the memories of both perpetrators and victims, become less reliable over time. Additionally, it is difficult to present a defense to something that happened years in the past. For example, most people would not be able to remember where they were on a particular day, decades ago, to construct an alibi.
Child sexual abuse charges are a very serious matter. Therefore, if you are under investigation for or have been charged with abuse, you need a skilled attorney’s advice. Please contact the passionate Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.