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When are sexual abuse cases too old to prosecute?

Each state has its own rules on when a case becomes too old to prosecute, and while Maryland's laws may be different than any other state's, many people may believe that there is just a point where evidence would be too stale to have a fair trial. Whether that is at the five-year mark, 10 years or 20 years, there are some states that allow prosecutors to bring a sexual abuse case 43 years after the incident apparently took place.

It is a cornerstone of the American legal system that anyone accused of a crime will have a fair trial and will only be convicted if the prosecution can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant did what it said he or she did. Much of this depends on credible, trustworthy evidence. The longer the time period between an alleged incident and a trial, the more likely it will be that evidence will become stale and witnesses will be harder to find or it will be difficult for them to clearly remember what they saw or heard.

With that in mind, many people in Montgomery County may be shocked to learn that Georgia is allowing the prosecution of a man who is accused of sexually abusing his former step-daughter 43 years ago. The now-67-year-old man has been taken into custody after the 54-year-old woman told police last year about the sexual relationship that apparently took place between 1969 and 1973.

The woman says that she and her young step-father began their relationship and it continued until the step-father and mother divorced. According to the woman's statements, the woman gave birth to a child fathered by the man, but it died a day later.

It is frightening to be charged with sexual abuse in Maryland, especially if the supposed incident happened over 40 years ago. It is important to remember, however, that a strong criminal defense attorney can help defend you against weak charges and insufficient evidence.

Source: Bay News 9, "Arrest made in 43-year-old child sex abuse case in Polk County," Laurie Davison, April 20, 2012

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Law Offices of
James N. Papirmeister, Esq.

Law Offices of James N. Papirmeister, Esq.
8630 Fenton St., Suite 320
Silver Spring, MD 20910

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013