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Rape Indictment Dismissed Due to Statute of Limitations Issue

April 13, 2021

The Court found there was probable cause to arrest the defendant in 2008. Therefore, the exception to the statute of limitations did not apply and the dismissal of the rape indictment was affirmed.

In State v. Campbell, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a rape indictment where the indictment failed to properly set out how the statute of limitations should have been tolled.

The defendant was initially indicted in 2014 for the offenses of rape and aggravated sodomy and it was alleged that the offenses were committed in 1993. The indictment, filed well after the expiration of the 15-year statute of limitations, did not allege any provision which would have tolled the statute.

The case went to trial in 2016 and, at the conclusion of the State’s evidence, the defense moved to dismiss the indictment based on its failure to state any exception to the statute of limitations. The trial court granted the motion.

The case was then re-indicted and, this time, it alleged that the statute of limitations was tolled because the defendant was unknown and not believed to be the perpetrator until a DNA match was made in 2008.

First, the defendant claimed that the re-indictment was barred on double jeopardy grounds, contending that he could not be retried since the first indictment was dismissed after the State rested its case at trial. The trial court denied his claim and the Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling that the trial court’s dismissal of the first indictment did not constitute an acquittal and thus did not bar a re-indictment.

After the case returned to the trial court, the defendant filed another plea in bar, this time arguing that the tolling provision in the indictment did not apply because the defendant was known as a suspect in the crime from the very beginning. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted the motion and dismissed the indictment once again. The State then appealed.

When is the Identity of the Offender Known?

Under Georgia law, the statute of limitations may be tolled for any period of time in which the identity of the offender is unknown. The question in this case is whether the defendant was known to be the suspected perpetrator of the crime prior to the DNA match in 2008.

The Georgia Supreme Court has stated that when the statute of limitations is tolled with respect to an unknown person, the perpetrator is considered to be “unknown” until the State has enough evidence to obtain an arrest warrant for that person.

When the State is relying on an exception to the statute of limitations, they have the burden to prove that the exception properly applies.

Evidence Suggesting the Defendant Committed the Crime

The trial court pointed out that the evidence presented at the hearing on the defendant’s plea in bar established that:

  • An investigator identified the defendant from a sketch made of the suspected rapist;
  • The alleged victim believed that the person in the sketch committed the rape;
  • The defendant fit the description and had the same manner of speech described by the alleged victim;
  • The defendant had previously been convicted of attempted rape in a nearby county with very similar facts;
  • The defendant was witnessed at a residence very close to where the offense occurred; and
  • The defendant was said to have been in the area where the rape occurred while on a weekend leave from the jail.

The Court of Appeals found that, based on this evidence, there was probable cause to arrest the defendant well before the DNA match in 2008. Therefore, it was held that the exception to the statute of limitations did not apply.

As a result, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the second rape indictment.

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