What is the Statute of Limitations in DNA Sexual Assault Cases?
Article 12.01 of the Texas Code Of Criminal Procedure governs the maximum time parties involved have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of the offense or injury. However, article 12.01 describes several categories for offenses for which there is no limitation period.
Under this provision, sexual assault has no limitations period:
- “if during the investigation of the offense biological matter is collected and subjected to forensic DNA testing and the testing results show that the matter does not match the victim or any other person whose identity is readily ascertained.” TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 12.01(1)(C)).
This provision established three required prongs to set aside limitations for sexual assault cases. See Ex parte Edwards, No. 01-19-00100-CR, 2020 WL 4457985, at *5 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Aug. 4, 2020, no pet. h.).Ex Parte Antonio Campozano Jr.
In the case below I go over the law for limitations to introduce DNA evidence in sexual assault cases, the 3-prong test, and why the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to allow the use of 18-year-old DNA in a sexual assault case.Background
Antonio Campozano Jr. appeals a trial court’s order denying relief on his pretrial application for writ of habeas corpus. The sexual assault incident occurred in November 2000. The victim underwent rape kit exam during which physical evidence was discovered. The evidence was submitted to a laboratory for DNA testing in 2015. The laboratory produced a report showing the DNA was a mixture from the victim and a male in April 2017. The police department in charge of the case was notified that the defendant’s DNA sample matched the DNA from the male. Because of the match, the case was reopened, and the defendant was indicted in October 2018. The defendant then filed a writ of habeas corpus relief, arguing that the statute of limitations for sexual assault was ten years and his case was time barred. See TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 12.01(2)(E).
The trial court held that because the defendant’s identity could not be readily ascertained at the time of the rape kit examination, there was no limitation period of the offense.
Under the first prong, the State must recover biological material during the investigation of the offense. This is not in dispute. The defendant challenges whether this case qualifies for unlimited limitations, under the second and third prongs. The second prong states that the biological evidence collected must be subjected to DNA testing. The third prong states that the identity of the contributor must not be readily ascertainable.Court of Appeals affirms the trial court’s ruling
The second prong requires that the biological evidence that was collected be subjected to DNA testing. The defendant contends that a plain reading of the statute requires the DNA testing must occur within 10 years to trigger the unlimited limitations provision requirement of the second prong. In rejecting this contention, the court reasoned that the statute unambiguously does not include a requirement that DNA testing be conducted within ten years. The Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court’s conclusion that the State had met the second statutory prong.
The third prong states that the identity of the contributor must not be readily ascertainable. Defendant contends that he is a person whose identity was readily ascertained. He contends that his DNA profile have been in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and if the State had taken minimal steps to find him and ascertain his identity it could easily had been done. The trial court rejected this argument because the defendant’s identity could not be readily ascertained until June 2018, when the CODIS match was made. Because the statute does not impose a diligence requirement on the State to process DNA profiles into CODIS, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.
The Court concluded that the State demonstrated all three prongs required to apply the no limitation provision.