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View Full Version : Why is there no statute of limitations on murder?


Denial,Egypt. Coincidence?
03-02-2006, 07:06 PM
There's no statute of limitations on murder. As far as I've heard, that's the only crime that works that way.
Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think treason gets ignored when the administration changes once or twice.
And manslaughter and attempted murder can become dead casefiles at some point.
I wonder what makes murder that grand?
Are we really the same people at 70 as we were at 18? If a gang tough kills someone fighting over turf, should he stand trial if evidence turns up 52 years later?

Gaudere
03-02-2006, 07:15 PM
[Moderator Hat ON]

Edited thread title for clarity.

[Moderator Hat OFF]

Gladstone
03-02-2006, 07:31 PM
Mainly for policy reasons, since murder is the ultimate crime and therefore should be the crime deterred the most. Further, for practical reasons, when there is a murder, there is one piece of evidence, however degraded or decomposed, that can be used to prove the crime occurred - the body. With other crimes, such as battery or rape, evidence essentially disappears as the victim heals and clothing or other tangible proof wears out or is thrown away.

While it may be difficult to 1) find the body, 2) prove that the death was not from natural causes, and 3) prove that the death was caused by the defendant, these are the jobs of any good police, coroners, and prosecutors. Hell, murder is considered such an important and heinous crime that sometimes a defendant has been prosecuted for it even when police have been unable to locate a victim's body and are forced to essentially speculate that the victim is dead.

Captain Amazing
03-02-2006, 07:40 PM
Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think treason gets ignored when the administration changes once or twice.

Ok, you're wrong. :) Treason is a capital crime, and according to Title 18, Sec. 3281 of the US Code:

An indictment for any offense punishable by death may be found at any time without limitation.

In other words, no federal crime that's punishable by death has a statute of limitations attached.

iamthewalrus(:3=
03-02-2006, 09:07 PM
With other crimes, such as battery or rape, evidence essentially disappears as the victim heals and clothing or other tangible proof wears out or is thrown away.The statute of limitations for a crime isn't based on how long the evidence is likely to last; it's based on the severity of the crime.

Are we really the same people at 70 as we were at 18? If a gang tough kills someone fighting over turf, should he stand trial if evidence turns up 52 years later?This argument is based on the idea that the reason society punishes crime is to rehabilitate the criminal. There are at least two other major philosophical reasons to punish crime: vengeance, and deterrence. Neither of those aims is particularly served by a statute of limitations. In fact, a statue of limitations weakens both.

JRDelirious
03-02-2006, 09:28 PM
As mentioned above, "capital" crimes generally do not run out of time. Also, a number of other crimes may have no SOL depending on the jurisdiction you are in and the deterrence policies involved. Plus, even with regular crimes there may be under your jurisdiction's laws a series of circumstances that "freeze the clock"on the SOL.

In the specific case of murder, there's also the philosophical component that would argue, that since by your heinous crime you've forfeited the rest of your life (either physically by death penalty, or morally by life imprisonment), then the state has the rest of your life to get you.

JRDelirious
03-02-2006, 09:51 PM
This argument [about "not being the same man at 18 as at 70"] is based on the idea that the reason society punishes crime is to rehabilitate the criminal. There are at least two other major philosophical reasons to punish crime: vengeance, and deterrence. Neither of those aims is particularly served by a statute of limitations. In fact, a statue of limitations weakens both.
And the SOL is itself a showing of mercy tempering justice, in which for most common crimes it is tolerated that after a certain time everyone is better served by getting on with their lives and resources are more efficiently invested in people who are immediate threats -- or who have committed heinous crimes that must not go unpunished. War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity are examples of cases where "not the same man at 70 as at 21" often gets little sympathy.

It also includes the assumption that a habitual criminal will always have something within the time limit so we can hope to get him for that -- say Joe held up a 7-11 six years ago. So did Frank. Since, Joe has cleaned up his act. Frank, OTOH, mugged someone last year and held up a liquor store last month. For both of them the crime in the 1990s is past SOL, Joe is in the clear. But Frank is still in trouble.

Leaper
03-03-2006, 02:31 AM
Plus, the rule is (obviously) not universal; Japan has a 14 year statute of limitations on murder, IIRC...

Gladstone
03-03-2006, 10:34 AM
The statute of limitations for a crime isn't based on how long the evidence is likely to last; it's based on the severity of the crime.


But the continuing existence and preservation of evidence for a crime is one of the chief practical reasons for having a statute of limitations.

EEMan
03-03-2006, 11:06 AM
But the continuing existence and preservation of evidence for a crime is one of the chief practical reasons for having a statute of limitations.

except as technology changes, so does the time that we can preserve and find evidence...

There are a number of crimes consider so heinous that there is no statute of limitations...

Just be happy you are not governed by the UCMJ... MOST of those offenses have no SoL

aldiboronti
03-03-2006, 11:12 AM
Plus, the rule is (obviously) not universal; Japan has a 14 year statute of limitations on murder, IIRC...

That's been extended now.

"Under Japanese law, prosecutors had 15 years - extended to 25 years last year, but only for killings committed after the law was passed - to charge murder suspects."

Link (http://iht.com/articles/2006/02/12/news/murder.php)

There's a mention in the linked story of a woman who was arrested for murder 11 hours before the 15 years ran out. She's now serving life imprisonment (and doubtless cursing her bad luck every day).

BarnOwl
03-03-2006, 11:20 AM
I thought tax evasion also had no statute of limitations. Wrong?

EEMan
03-03-2006, 11:24 AM
I thought tax evasion also had no statute of limitations. Wrong?

nope.. not wrong... you can't expect to steal from the government and not have to pay the piper at any point...

There are quite a few crimes with no SoL... some are special circomstance crimes (armed robbery, grand theft, hate crimes etc)... not to mention non-federal crimes will have different SoL in different localities

Gladstone
03-03-2006, 12:14 PM
except as technology changes, so does the time that we can preserve and find evidence...

Quite true, but that has no bearing on some of the underlying rationale for why the statute of limitations was created and established in the first place.

EEMan
03-03-2006, 12:24 PM
I was simply refering to your 'practical reasons for'...

As technology changes... so does the term/limit of practicality... as such you can't tie a SoL on such things

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