Letter Opposing Michigan’s Proposed “Statute of Limitations” Legislation

Dear Representative ,

The reason for this letter is to speak against Senate Bill 52, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for any sex offense against someone less than 18 years of age. Since the 1980’s Michigan has increasingly relied on more and more punishment. The number of people imprisoned has gone from about 17,000 to 42,000, while Michigan’s overall population has not changed. In tandem, there are many more people under supervision and with criminal records. These ruptures and impediments diminish families and communities. The cost of imprisonment and supervision are great, and the individuals affected are not allowed to reach their potential, all of this preventing Michigan from being what it can be.

In general, statute of limitations are a reasonable compromise between society’s need for justice against its desire for fairness, efficiency and grace. Some of the reasons for them are:

  • Statute of limitations have long-standing legal and historical precedence, going back to Roman Law. The American colonial governments’ earliest laws enacted criminal statute of limitations. The United States First Congress enacted 2-3 year statutes of limitations for all federal crimes.
  • They promote fairness to the accused.
  • Evidence and memories become lost and misshapen.
  • With time defense is more difficult and prosecution less reliable.
  • Statutes of limitation encourage prompt prosecution, while one can defend oneself.
  • People may have rehabilitated themselves as they matured and don’t pose a future threat to society.

In Michigan, and with sex offenses, in particular:

  • There already is an extra long period in the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors. Already, there is not limitation on CSC1 crimes.
  • Many of the sections included in this bill are for crimes that are common and not particularly heinous, such as teenage sex, sexual touch only, and children’s sexual exploration. I suggest, that this bill would open the majority, or at least a significant percent of adult men, to prosecution for behavior they did when they were minors.
  • Prosecuting a sexual offense often involves one person’s word against another. In Michigan you do not need any more evidence. Sexual acts from long ago are often distorted in a person’s memory because of the emotion that accompanies them. Debbie Nathan reports1 on some famous crimes that were later discredited because childhood memories had become misinterpreted by the child/adult, planted in a child’s mind by adults either intentionally or accidentally, or they were considered “repressed memories”.
  • After many years without committing another sex offense, a person is unlikely to. Research shows that after 15 years of being offense-free, a sex offender’s recidivism rate for the next 5 years is only 4%2

1Debbie Nathan is an American journalist and writer with a focus on cultural and criminal justice issues concerning the abuse of children.

2Andrew J. R. Harris and R. Karl Hanson, “Sex Offender Recidivism: A Simple Question”, Public Safety Canada, 12/15/15, viewed 3/17/17 at https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/sx-ffndr-rcdvsm/index-en.aspx