Sex crimes are some of the most heinous crimes on the books, and because of the nature of the crime, some victims are reluctant to speak up and come forward about the incident. In an effort to help victims take the time they need to process the event and still hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions, Illinois has expanded the statute of limitations to give victims more time to report the crime.
The new law, which became official on January 1, removes the time limits that prosecutors have to bring charges against a person accused of certain sex crimes. Under the old system, victims had three years to file a police report and 10 years to press charges. Now there are no time constraints for individuals to file a report in cases of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Illinois had previously dropped statute of limitations requirements for what they classified as major sex crimes on persons under the age of 18 back in 2017, but the new change provides expanded protections to people of all ages.
Statute Of Limitations In Illinois Sex Crimes
There are some benefits and drawbacks of this new change. For starters, it’s great that sex crime victims now have as much time as they need to process the incident and move forward in the direction they choose. Some people need longer than others to find some normalcy after a sexual assault, and it’s a good thing that the state isn’t dictating exactly how long someone has to process the trauma. Overall, this is a good thing for sexual assault survivors.
The only major downside we see that affects both victims and accused individuals is that removing the statute of limitations can create issues for both the defense and prosecution if the case goes to trial. For example, if we’re defending a client that was accused of sexual assault 30 years ago, it’s going to be harder for us to create a concrete timeline to prove innocence or find witnesses who can speak on our clients’ behalf. Memories fade, people pass away and evidence gets harder to collect as time passes.
The same problem is there for sexual assault victims who are trying to get justice for the crime. Maybe it takes a decade for them to come to grips with the incident and to decide to move forward with a criminal complaint against their abuser. Now that a decade has gone by, forensic evidence may be gone, witnesses may be harder to track down, and even your recollection of the event may have changed or faded. The defense will be looking to poke holes in your story, and if it’s harder to remember some of the more intricate details of the incident because it happened so long ago, it can serve to work against your case and prevent you from getting the justice you deserve.
At the end of the day, it’s probably a good thing that the statute of limitations has been removed for certain sex crimes, but victims need to know that this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a lot easier to bring their abuser to justice. Even though there is no statute of limitations anymore, the clock is always ticking on the reliability of evidence and the strength of your case. For anyone thinking of bringing charges against another person, be it for a sex crime, a personal injury, a breach of contract or another potentially time-sensitive issue, consider contacting a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you have the best chance of getting justice. For help with any part of this process in Illinois, reach out to Appelman & Lloyd today.