Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Involving Minors – Gone in Iowa

Imagine being a retired pastor, coach, or teacher and receiving a call from a detective that goes something like this:

Detective:  Mr. Smith, this is Detective Jones from the Des Moines Police Department?

Mr. Smith:  Uh, hello.

Detective:  I’d like to talk to you about a young lady named Little Jenny?

Mr. Smith:  You’ll have to be more specific, I have encountered a number of Little Jenny’s in my career.

Detective:  Well Little Jenny who was on your fourth grade basketball team back in 2002.

Mr. Smith:  Ok.  Still not entirely sure who that is.

Detective:  Well, Little Jenny has accused you of touching her inappropriately back in 2002.  She was 10.

Mr. Smith:  Of doing WHAT?!

Detective:  Sexually assaulting her.  I’m going to need you to turn yourself in on an arrest warrant for Sexual Abuse in the 2nd Degree….

Yes, the allegation occurred twenty years before.  You are correct, any physical evidence in support or in contradiction of the accusation is likely gone.  You are also correct, it is difficult enough to remember a day, week or month ago, let alone 20 years.   Yes, witnesses are likely long gone or do not have memories of the events.

Statute of limitations you say?  Not anymore.  Iowa has now removed all statute of limitations for sexual abuse allegations against a minor.  They can be investigated, charged, and prosecuted up until the alleged perpetrator is dead.  All that is necessary to arrest and prosecute someone for these types of allegations is a witness who is willing to stand by a story.  So long as a complaining witness stands by the allegation, nothing can prevent the charging, arresting and prosecuting of the accused.  All that is needed for an accusation to turn into a criminal charge and make it all the way to trial is the very low legal standard of “probable cause.”  “Probable Cause” simply means, “reason to believe the offense was committed by the accused.”  A witness’s allegations, by themselves, meet that standard.

It is a scary world we live in.  It is even scarier now that there are no limitations on the time-frame that sexual abuse allegations against minors must be made.  Just the accusation alone is sufficient to destroy a career, family and life.  These accusations cost tens-of-thousands of dollars to appropriately defend and now there are no restrictions upon when they may be brought.  If you or a family member get a call such as the one above – rule #1 is do not talk, lawyer up. One wrong answer could cost you the rest of your life.