Wednesday, December 31, 2003
C.A. Upholds Extension of Child Sex Crime Limitations Period
No Ex Post Facto Violation Where Period Had Not Expired When New Law Took Effect, Court Says
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Legislation that extended the statue of limitations for sex crimes against children—struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court for crimes as to which the limitations period had already expired—is constitutional for crimes as to which time was still running when the law took effect, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The court’s Div. Three rejected a claim by Victor Manuel Renderos that applying Penal Code Sec. 803(g) to him violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Sec. 803(g) extended the six-year limitations period applicable to sex offenses against minors, allowing later prosecution within one year of the time a victim reports the offense to a law enforcement agency.
The high court in Stogner v. California (2003) 123 S. Ct. 2446 ruled the law could not be constitutionally applied to cases in which the limitations period had already expired by the time it took effect on Jan. 1, 1994. But Justice Joann C. Parelli said that the court in Stogner “expressly noted its holding did not affect or otherwise ‘prevent the State from extending time limits—for prosecutions not yet time barred.’”
The crimes of which Renderos was convicted occurred between 1992 and 1994, and the six-year limitations period in Sec. 800 applicable to them had not yet expired when Sec. 803(g) went into effect, Parelli pointed out.
“[T]he only consequence of Stogner is that any enumerated crime must be committed or the limitations period in section 800—must expire after January 1, 1994 (the effective date of the statute) in order for the extended one-year period to apply. Because the limitations period in section 800 for all the offenses charged in this case expired after January 1, 1994, section 803(g) does not violate any constitutional provision against ex post facto laws.”
Parelli rejected the argument that, because the six-ear statutory period had expired by the end of 2000 and Renderos was not charged until after his victim came forward in 2001, Sec. 803(g) was reviving a dead cause of action in violation of Stogner.
The justice wrote:
“[F]or those offenses committed before January 1, 1994, but where the statute of limitations in sections 800 or 801 had not yet expired as of that date, section 803(g) can be read as ‘extending’ the statute of limitations so that a prosecution is timely if it is commenced no more than one year after a victim reports the abuse to an appropriate law enforcement agency. That the People could not prosecute the action until a report was filed—does not support Renderos’s contention the statute as applied to him had the effect of ‘reviving’ a prosecution barred by the statute of limitations. Because the statute of limitations under section 800 had not expired when section 803(g) became effective on January 1, 1994, section 803(g) permitted the People to commence prosecution for the offenses within one year after the filing [the] report of abuse, notwithstanding the limitation period in section 800.”
Oakland attorney Robert J. Beles of Beles and Beles, who represented Renderos on appeal, conceded he had some “tough sledding” at oral argument, but said he was surprised by the outcome.
“I really thought that basically Stogner does apply,” Beles said, adding he plans to seek state Supreme Court review “and if necessary go to the feds on that.”
The Court of Appeal did not appear to appreciate that there are two prongs to the Stogner analysis, Beles asserted, saying it was “very clear” that under Stogner’s second prong the state cannot “revive a dead cause of action.”
“I just think they’re glossing over the fact this is not an extension. Hopefully I’ll get a better ruling down the road.”
Deputy Attorney General Gregg E. Zywicke, who represented the prosecution on appeal, could not be reached for comment late yesterday.
The case is People v. Renderos, A097873.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company