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Name: People v. Hale
Case #: A127337
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 03/28/2012
Summary

A prosecution for Penal Code section 269 (aggravated sexual assault of a child) is not subject to a statute of limitations but can be commenced at any time. Appellant was convicted of numerous sexual offenses against his daughter and the daughters of his one-time companion, when the girls were under the age of 14 years and he was 10 years older, and he was sentenced to 325 years to life. On appeal, he contended that the convictions for section 269 could not stand as they were not commenced within a ten-year statute of limitations. The court disagreed. In 1984, the Legislature overhauled the criminal statutes of limitations scheme to tailor the applicable statute to the seriousness of the crime. Penal Code section 799 specifies that any offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for life without the possibility of parole may be prosecuted at any time. An offense is deemed punishable by the maximum punishment prescribed by the statute, regardless of the punishment sought or imposed. (Pen. Code, sec. 805, subd. (a).) Appellant was convicted of section 296 which is punishable by 15 years to life. Therefore, prosecution can be commenced at any time. The court rejected argument that the rule of lenity be applied. The rule gives a criminal defendant the benefit of the doubt as to a statute’s application if there are two equally reasonable interpretations. Here there is only one reasonable interpretation. The court also found that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction for forcible sodomy of the nine-year-old girl by an adult man weighing 290 pounds. Appellant was much larger than the child and did not stop the act when she protested that it hurt. Additionally, he told her not to report the molest or he could go to prison. Under either a theory of duress or one of force, there was sufficient evidence.