- An associate of mine was the victim of a crime. This associate expressed what the trauma of that event did to derail the level of emotional wellness. I can relate, as I was a victim of a similar crime many years ago. The biggest emotional hit came when this associate found out that the perpetrator of the crime was caught after the statute of limitations had passed, which means there was no criminal indictment available. A statute of limitations indicates the amount of time in which criminal charges must be filed against a suspect or if charges are filed, they could be subject to a defense claim that the limit has lapsed. Since that time had passed for the crime, the case was consequently closed.
When I was victimized, I didn’t report it. But, if I had, I would be depleted if the person they determined to have committed the attack on me couldn’t be touched because of a statute of limitations.
I have mixed emotions about it, and I understand both sides of it. On the one hand, as a victim, its empowering and liberating to see the person who committed the crime against you face their penalty. But on the other hand, a statute of limitations has a legitimate purpose.
Criminal laws are designed to protect the innocent as much as they protect suspects of crimes. Statute of Limitations were created to further this objective. The statute of limitations has a long history in criminal law. Such statutes exist for several reasons: (1) to help ensure that when people go to court as a defendant they receive a fair trial; (2) to make sure witnesses’ memories are fresh (the closer it is to an event, the more reliable one’s recollection tends to be); (3); to pressure the government to investigate cases and file charges in a timely manner, in accordance with the Sixth Amendment; and (4) so that accused citizens need not live their life in fear of the oftentimes overzealous government pursing them after a long and avoidable delay.
Nonetheless, a victim doesn’t want to hear that. It’s a further violation to learn that the government can’t touch the perpetrator. I advised my associate to seek the advice of an attorney, because even if the matter won’t make it to criminal court, a victim might still be able to sue for civil damages, to include actual damages (i.e., costs associated with the lost of property; any lost income resulting from the victimization; medical expenses for sustained injuries; etc.) as well as for punitive damages.
Civil court gets financial justice for the victim. Most likely, the perpetrator of a street crime has limited finances and may not be able to pay the judgment. That tends to be the case in many instances. But securing a civil judgment against someone can be sweet justice. It can give victims big leverage to get some measure of justice, even if a few years go by until the perpetrator acquires assets. This could ultimately be a form of restitution for the victim and allow for wage or bank account garnishments as well as placing a lien on the perpetrator’s home. There are also time limits involved in civil proceedings too (sometimes called a prescriptive period), so seeking the advice of an attorney is wise.