7th Circuit rejects claim conviction is outside statute of limitations

June 25, 2015

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with a defendant who claimed the federal DNA tolling statute is unconstitutional as applied to him. The man was convicted in 2013 of attempting to rob an Anderson bank in 2003, thanks to a positive identification in 2010 using DNA collected at the crime scene.

An armed man entered an Anderson bank on Aug. 1, 2013, and attempted to rob it. The only customer inside happened to be the city’s assistant chief of police, who ordered the robber to put his weapon down. The two exchanged gun fire and the robber fled. Blood was found on a receipt behind the teller’s window, but it did not yield a DNA match.

In 2010, the Combined DNA Index System matched the DNA to Pascal Sylla, whose DNA was entered into the system after pleading guilty to a bank robbery in 2006. Sylla was indicted in 2013 regarding the Anderson robbery. He argued the pre-indictment delay violated his Fifth Amendment due process rights and the five-year statutory time limit to bring the charges had expired.

“Sylla’s vagueness challenge cannot prevail because application of that provision to his case is sufficiently straight-forward,” Judge William Bauer wrote in United States of America v. Pascal Sylla, 14-2813. “Ordinarily, the five-year statute of limitations applicable to bank robbery under (18 U.S.C.) § 3282(a) would have expired on August 1, 2008; however, pursuant to (18 U.S.C.) § 3297’s plain and unambiguous terms, the DNA match on December 27, 2010, extended the limitations period for an additional five years from that date. The government indicted Sylla on July 16, 2013, well within this five-year window.

“Plainly stated, there is nothing vague about § 3297 as applied to this case. Although it is possible to envision a situation where § 3297’s tolling effect works to materially prejudice a defendant’s ability to put on a defense, Sylla has not identified any such prejudice that occurred in his case. Accordingly, we reject Sylla’s constitutional challenge to § 3297.”



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