In a recent case before an Arizona criminal court, the defendant asked for the court to overturn a conviction for sexual assault and voyeurism, arguing that one charge was brought against him too late after the offense occurred. Reviewing the defendant’s argument, the higher court ultimately denied his request, ruling he had not raised the issue early enough to benefit from the relevant statute of limitations.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant was indicted in 2019 for sexual assault and voyeurism against several victims. The offenses occurred in 2008, 2015, 2017, and 2018. In each of the instances, the victim came forward and alleged that the defendant either raped, assaulted, or recorded her in a promiscuous setting without her consent.
Before the defendant’s case went to trial, he asked the Court to hold a separate trial for the 2008 incident because it was so far apart from the other incidents. The superior court denied the defendant’s request, and the trial moved forward.
A jury found the defendant guilty of sexual assault and voyeurism against seven different women. The court sentenced him to several decades in prison, and the defendant appealed. On appeal, the defendant’s main argument was that the 2008 offense should have been barred because of the statute of limitations. In Arizona, the State generally has seven years to initiate prosecution for sexual assault felonies. Here, said the defendant, more than seven years passed, and the State should not have been able to charge him with the crime over ten years later.
The higher court agreed that the statute of limitations stated exactly what the defendant claimed it stated. However, said the court, the defendant did not bring this argument up early enough (i.e. before trial). When an argument is referenced for the first time on appeal, as opposed to before litigation begins, the court has a harsher standard for reviewing the argument. In this case, the higher standard applied. Thus the court could only accept the defendant’s argument if it was clear there was a “fundamental error” on the part of the lower court.
Here, the issue with the statute of limitations did not rise to the level of a “fundamental error.” The court did not deprive the defendant of any constitutional right, and there was no evidence that the defendant was prejudiced by the State’s evidence. The court therefore denied the defendant’s appeal.
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