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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ind. Law - "Indiana case spotlights rape statute of limitations" [Updated]

Tim Evans of the Indianapolis Star writes today:

A man walks into the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and confesses to raping a young woman in 2005.

In Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky — as well as 28 other states across the U.S. — he would have been arrested and prosecuted.

But in Indiana, Bart Bareither walked out a free man.

Why? Because in this state, rape charges no longer can be filed if the incident took place more than five years ago.

Indiana is among just seven states with a statute of limitations of five years or less for filing rape charges. In 11 states, the statute of limitations is from six to 9 years. In 12 others, it ranges from 10 to 20 years. And 20 states have no limit at all. * * *

Ryan W. Scott, a law professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, said the traditional rationale for time limits is tied to the two basic concerns acknowledged by Holmes.

“One has to do with repose. At a certain point, a person should no longer have to fear they will be charged with a crime that occurred years ago,” he explained. “The other has to do with difficulty of proof. After a certain time, it becomes harder to get reliable evidence, physical evidence deteriorates and the memories of witnesses fade.”

The passing of time can be as troubling for a defendant as for a prosecutor, Scott said, citing as an example the death of a potential alibi witness.

Still, Scott said, the law places no limit on murder and some other serious crimes.

In Indiana, for instance, there is no statute of limitations on Class A felony charges, what the state deems the “worst of the worst” criminal offenses. That includes murder, as well as other charges such as dealing in more than three grams of cocaine, methamphetamine or a narcotic drug, armed robbery resulting in injury and child neglect resulting in death.

State lawmakers also saw fit to include in that category aggravated rape, which involves the use of a deadly weapon or serous injury to the victim. But if neither circumstance applies, rape is a Class B felony with a five-year limit on bringing charges. * * *

Anita Carpenter, CEO of the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said there has been no real outcry about the five-year limit on rape charges.

“The only thing we’ve been having discussion on, and they have been very preliminary, is eliminating the statute of limitation for child sex abuse cases because children are often afraid to come forward,” she said.

This June 3, 2006 ILB post, along with this one from June 5, 2006, deal with the Indiana statute of limitations in civil abuse cases, where "state law requires the plaintiffs to have filed suit within two years after turning 21."

This Oct. 19, 2009 ILB post, quoting a NY Times story, is headed "Prosecutors in Manhattan — aware that the legal clock for bringing a case was running out — devised the novel strategy of indicting the rapist’s DNA."

[Updated] The ILB did not quote then end section of the Star story, headed "Victim's story". Indianapolis attorney Cara Wieneke did read it and sent these comments:

Fascinating read on the rape case today in the Star. But I had a problem with the article. I agree with the underlying premise that a 5-year statute of limitation seems too short. But I thought the example they used doesn't really highlight the problem.

The woman in the article, while I feel great empathy for her suffering, has known for years who raped her. Yet she never reported it, likely for a myriad of reasons. But an important justification for a statute of limitation is so that people do not have to live in constant fear that they will someday be held accountable for their actions.

Had this woman not known who raped her and only recently learned of his identity, then it would seem unjust for there to be a limitation period. But that was not the case here. She knew and chose not to report it. To suggest that we should eliminate a limitation period for rape because a victim chooses not to report it to authorities for several years, but someday changes her mind, seems illogical.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 16, 2014 01:52 PM
Posted to Indiana Law