Addressing an issue that’s been litigated back and forth on appeal for more than 20 years, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided today that a statute of limitations on felony child molesting begins running once the actions stop and the victim is no longer being prevented from telling authorities.
In Jeffrey L. Sloan v. State of Indiana, No. 18A04-0909-CR-544, the appellate panel reversed and affirmed in part a case involving two counts of child molesting going back to the mid-1980s when a now 31-year-old woman was molested by her step-uncle starting at age 6.
The court ruling says Sloan began molesting the girl, identified as M.A., starting in January 1984. The molestation continued regularly through 1991, when she was 13. She didn’t tell her stepfather, Sloan’s brother, about the abuse until 2007 and about a year later police charged the step-uncle with two counts of felony child molesting. Sloan filed a motion to dismiss the Class C felony charges on the basis that it was filed 16 years after the date the offense happened, and that was beyond the five-year statute of limitations in Indiana Code 35-41-4-2(a)(1). The state argued at a hearing that the statute hadn’t run out because Sloan’s acts of concealment – him telling her not to tell anyone and that she could go to jail if the molesting was reported – had delayed the prosecution.
Delaware Circuit Judge Richard Dailey denied the dismissal motion, and a jury found him guilty before the judge sentenced him to 46 years consecutively.
But conflicting caselaw proves that when the molesting stopped in 1991, that began the clock ticking down on M.A.’s five-year period to report the behavior, the appeals judges found – it expired in 1996. The court relied on cases that include: Crider v. State, 531 N.E.2d 1151 (Ind. 1988); Sipes v. State, 797 N.E.2d 336, 340 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003); Umfleet v. State, 556 N.E. 2d 339, 341 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990); and Thakkar v. State, 613 N.E. 2d 453, 457 (Ind. Ct. App. 1993).
Aside from reversing that molesting conviction, the court found that the 40-year-sentence for the Class A felony child molesting count was adequate. The case is remanded.