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Eyewitnesses’ memories get worse, records get lost, etc. This is one of the reasons that statutes of limitations exist.

Yes but eyewitness testimony is first written down, their testimony in court is based off that specifically for this reason. This is also why police use notebooks. Neither of which are very reliable anyway, but courts don't rely on a witness making his/her testimony unsupported.

>Records get lost

This could not possibly be a problem anymore?

Why not? In an absolute sense, we probably lose more data now than ever before.

Well i agree with you because more data is produced, but losing forensic evidence data, eye witness testimony data. That type of data won't get lost

And they probably shouldn’t. Statute of limitations should only be to protect against fast changes to the law that apply retroactively.

The notion that a new law does NOT retroactively apply to acts done before the law was enacted is not called a 'statute of limitations'.

A statue of limitations serves a few purposes.

1. At some point closure is better than justice, or at least, that's a theory. Better to get a crime on record because the committer of it confesses to it than not. The idea being that after, say, 10 years, the odds that the criminal would get caught have drifted off to as near to 0 as can be.

2. Records eventually get shredded if you wait long enough; eyewitness recollections in particular slowly mutate into conjecture (whilst said eyewitnesses will believe what they remember is accurate, there's plenty of proof out there that given enough time what they remember is not at all accurate and it gets worse over time). This makes it easier to accidentally convict on flawed evidence, and makes it harder for the defendant to defend themselves.

I think it could be argued that case law is a prevalent form of ex post facto law in common law systems, and so constitutes an additional justification for statutes of limitations.

Many acts are ambiguously criminal, until clarified by a test case. Legal decisions are also often made in the context of time, taking into account what is commonly considered offensive, what a person is presumed to know (in establishing mens rea). It's difficult to try some crimes with a modern perspective and take into account what was considered acceptable in the past.

The only cases I’ve seen it become relevant is when a crime, typically sexual assault, becomes impossible to prosecute. The assumption made is that all evidence becomes irrelevant after x number of years. x happens to be well within a human lifetime and it clearly is not accurate when using 1970s technology, let alone 2010s. There are a myriad of reasons that victims don’t charge crimes that have been committed against them.

Its existence points towards having a “legal system” rather than a “justice system”.

> The notion that a new law does NOT retroactively apply to acts done before the law was enacted is not called a 'statute of limitations'.

Correct, it’s called ex post facto.

? Law is almost never retroactive, especially not for criminal law.

It is something that is within the lawmakers’ power to do.

Yes(+), but that has nothing to do with statute of limitations - if something's going to the extreme of retroactive criminal law, there will be a clause which says "and the statute of limitations does not apply".

(+) arguably it isn't, in ECHR juristictions

Without the 'arguably' modifier I would hope. That's article 7 of the ECHR [1]. I also expect that the principle is part of most if not all European constitutions.

[1] https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Guide_Art_7_ENG.pdf

Wait, in the US criminal laws can be retroactive?

Nope. Article 9, Section 1 reads, in part:

"No Bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."


In the US Ex Post Facto laws are constitutionally forbidden. Other jurisdictions is not so clear but it is generally frowned upon.

The supreme court has weakened the definition in its interpretation. I find that absurd since I think the definition in the constitution sufficient.

The bar against ex post facto application of law in the US is limited to criminal laws.

Civil laws, such as, immigration laws, are not so limited. That's why I encourage permanent resident immigrants (green card holders) to complete the naturalization process ASAP. (Assuming they want to retain the right to stay in the US.)

Where does this come from?

Article I section 9 doesn't say anything about the scope being limited to criminal law.

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