November 25, 2021 | Homicide
The criminal defense lawyers at Suhre & Associates explain why there is no statute of limitations for murder in Dayton, Ohio. The Ohio state legislature is responsible for passing statutes of limitation. Statute 2901.13 provides the statutes of limitation for criminal charges in the state.
Pursuant to this statute, there is no statute of limitation for murder or aggravated murder in Ohio. This means that prosecutors may charge someone with murder at any time, no matter how many years ago the murder allegedly occurred.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a time limit on when the state can file criminal charges against someone. The statutes of limitation vary greatly depending on the type of crime involved.
For minor misdemeanors in Ohio, the statute of limitations is six months. For regular misdemeanors, the time limit to prosecute is two years. For minor felonies, the time limit is six years. For serious felonies like rape, the statute of limitations is 25 years. Then for murder, there is no time limit on when the state can prosecute a suspect.
There are important policy reasons for having statutes of limitation in place. The three main reasons for statutes of limitations are:
- It is unfair to prosecute someone for something that happened long ago when they were young
- You have the right to present a defense, but evidence of innocence disappears over time as witnesses move or pass away, memories fade, and surveillance footage is destroyed
- They encourage police to promptly investigate cases and press charges
These policy and constitutional concerns are given less weight by lawmakers as the seriousness of the crime increases. This is because society has a bigger interest in bringing the perpetrators of serious crimes to justice. There are other very interesting reasons why Murder does not have a statute of limitations in Ohio, discussed below.
Why is There No Statute of Limitations for Murder?
Some of the unique reasons why murder charges can be brought at any time, even after many years include the following.
Murder is Considered the Most Serious Crime
While some would argue other crimes are even more serious than murder, societies put the most severe punishment on convicted murderers. One of the main goals of the justice system is helping society heal and move forward after a crime.
Because murder is such a serious crime, society has a huge need to bring the perpetrator to justice, even if many years have passed. They don’t want a murderer walking around free to strike again. Society and the family members of victims need closure, no matter how much time has passed.
Forensic Evidence Technology Keeps Advancing
Another reason there is no statute of limitations on murder in Ohio is the constant advances of forensic science and evidence. New technologies are constantly helping solve cases that were previously a complete loss to investigators.
Many years ago fingerprints and DNA evidence didn’t exist. When they became widespread, many cold cases could suddenly be prosecuted. Society has decided it values being able to prosecute very old murder cases thanks to new technology. The newest advances in GPS evidence from cell phones and facial recognition promise to continue this trend.
Sometimes People are Exonerated After Many Years, Leaving a Murder Unsolved
Lengthy appeals processes, and the same advances in technology described above, mean that wrongly convicted defendants are sometimes exonerated in murder cases. Groups like The Innocence Project use advances in DNA technology to help this happen. After the convict is proven to actually be innocent, they are released from prison. This leaves society reeling.
The state of Ohio wants to be able to prosecute the real killer, and not be stuck with unsolved murders. Partially for this reason, the Ohio legislature has decided not to have statutes of limitation for murder.
Are You Being Investigated for Murder in Dayton?
Because there is no statute of limitations for murder in Ohio, you could be prosecuted at any time, no matter how many years have passed.
If you are the subject of a criminal investigation for murder, you need an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, and you need them as soon as possible. Do not talk to law enforcement. Invoke your right to silence and contact a criminal defense lawyer right away.