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Limitations Period Expired for Sex Crime Charge, Rules Florida Appeals Court

Crimes with a statute of limitations are required to be prosecuted within a defined period of time. This helps ensure that evidence for the prosecution is still available at trial and encourages law enforcement to actively seek to resolve crimes. A Florida appeals court recently determined that the limitations period had expired against a criminal defendant who was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct, a Florida sex crime.

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The defendant was the former boyfriend of the alleged victims’ mother. After the mother abandoned her children, they were placed in their grandmother’s care. The defendant continued to be a part of the children’s lives. The two children, along with their brother, went to the defendant’s apartment one day to clean it. At the time, the two children in question were 12 years old and 10 years old. The defendant allegedly engaged in sexual acts with both the 12-year-old and the 10-year-old while they were cleaning his home. On the 12-year-old’s next birthday, the defendant gave her an inappropriate, sexually suggestive birthday gift. When the girl’s grandmother found it, she prohibited the defendant from having any further contact with the children.

The applicable statute of limitations, at the time of the crime, for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between the ages of 12 and 16 years (Florida Statutes Section 800.04(5)(c)) was three years from the date that the crime was committed. However, the limitations period for that offense does not begin to run until the victim has reached the age of 18 or the violation has been reported to law enforcement.

The defendant argued that the limitations period for the offense had expired. The alleged victim reached the age of 18 in January 2010. Therefore, the statute of limitation would have extended three years from that time, which was January 2013. However, the defendant argued that the incident was reported to the Department of Children and Families in August 2006, which would mean that the limitations period would have ended in August 2009.

The appeals court was therefore asked to consider when the limitations period for a violation of Section 800.04 begins. The court concluded that after reviewing the plain language of the statute, the limitations period started in August 2006 when the alleged victim reported to DCF that the defendant sexually abused her. Although the State’s Attorney’s Office did not learn of the allegation until several years later, DCF’s failure to act did not modify the starting point of the limitations period. Therefore, the defendant’s motion to dismiss the lewd and lascivious conduct charge was granted by the appeals court.

With more than 20 years of experience, St. Petersburg sex crime lawyer Will Hanlon is committed to assisting people who have been charged with a wide range of crimes, including lewd and lascivious conduct and other sex offenses. At Hanlon Law, we believe in taking the time to understand the details of a client’s situation so that we can offer a multifaceted legal defense. Contact Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or through our online form to set up a consultation.

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Photo credit: Mdesigns [CC0 Creative Commons], via Pixabay