United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Criminal Procedure — statute of limitations — DNA
Under 18 U.S.C. 3282(a), the statute of limitation is tolled until DNA testing results in a unique identification.
“This unique reliability explains why Congress enacted § 3297. Statutes of limitations exist, in part, to protect people from having to defend against charges where ‘the basic facts may have become obscured by the passage of time.’ Toussie v. United States, 397 U.S. 112, 114- 15 (1970); see also United States v. Daniels, 387 F.3d 636, 643 (7th Cir. 2004). But properly stored DNA evidence, unlike most other kinds of evidence, can maintain its reliability for decades. See, e.g., Banks v. Workman, 692 F.3d 1133, 1137-38, 1151 (10th Cir. 2012) (affirming denial of habeas corpus relief where petitioner was convicted using DNA testing performed ‘[n]early two decades’ after the crime). Thus, when DNA evidence is available, the reasons for having a statute of limitations are significantly attenuated. Or, put another way, § 3297 extends the limitations period in DNA cases because DNA evidence is uniquely precise. It would be odd, then, to apply § 3297 where DNA profile lacks this precision, as was the case with the first DNA test here. Indeed, it turned out that this particular sample did not identify Hagler at all; it later matched conclusively to his brother Shawn. Given the high level of precision that § 3297 is premised on, we think that, in the vast majority of cases, DNA evidence will ‘implicate’ someone only when, as here, it matches to a single, identified person.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Lee, J., Kanne, J.