The criminal statutes of every state in the Union contain time limitations. Although the various states differ greatly in their applicable limitation periods, the reason for their existence is always the same. “Statutes of limitation in criminal cases are designed primarily to protect the accused from the burden of defending himself against charges of long completed misconduct. Unlike a statute of limitation in a civil case, a criminal statute of limitation is not a mere limitation upon the remedy, but a limitation upon the power of the sovereign to act against the accused.” State v. Fogel, 16 Ariz. App. 246, 248, 492 P.2d 742, 744 (1972).
For example, in Arizona, the limitations period for a misdemeanor DUI is one year. See, A.R.S. § 13-107(B)(2). Persons arrested for DUI for drugs are commonly not charged until the crime lab has analyzed their blood. If the blood sample were to get lost in the government vortex and charges were not filed until a few days beyond the one year limit, the case would quickly get dismissed. Those who believe in punishment more than rusty memories and stale evidence are troubled when such cases get dismissed because guilt or innocence is no longer an issue.
Yet the fascinating thing about statutes of limitation is that the uglier the crime, the longer the time. Procedural due process is often compelled to take a back seat so that really disturbing individuals can finally get what they deserve. For example, in Arizona, the limitations period for most felony offenses is seven years (six years longer than a misdemeanor). And, for the most disturbing of felony behavior (like homicide, child molestation and misuse of public monies) many states, including Arizona, no longer even impose a limitations period.
This concept of an extended (or no) limitations period was at play in the recent arrest of James Hooker, a 41-year-old former high school teacher, in Modesto, California. James’ lifestyle first became famous when he quit his job, left his wife and children, and moved in with one of his former students who is now eighteen. For weeks, James proclaimed he broke no laws because “nothing happened” until his student/girlfriend was an adult. Government officials, parents and school administrators were all justifiably upset by James’ breach of the public trust.
Justice, however, was not to be denied. James has since been arrested for having improper physical contact with a different, non-adult student. According to Modesto Police, James’ arrest arose out of conduct that occurred in 1998 with a seventeen-year-old. James has learned the hard way that the long arm of the law is also able to withstand decades of time.
If you are facing criminal charges please contact us at (480) 833-2341 to discuss how we can help you protect your rights in a criminal defense case.
Attorney Profile: Brian D. Strong, Criminal Defense Lawyer