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Name: People v. Lewis
Case #: A134995
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 02/09/2015

Report of child molestation to law enforcement agency outside of California did not trigger the running of former Penal Code section 803, subdivision (g)(1)’s one-year limitations period. For a number of years, Lewis molested T.C., his step-daughter, in California and Texas. The abuse in California occurred in 1989. In 1991, T.C. reported Lewis’ sexual abuse to a doctor in Texas and he was indicted by a Texas grand jury for raping her. The charge was dismissed in 1992 when the prosecutor lost contact with T.C. In 2007, T.C. reported Lewis’ abuse to California authorities. He was subsequently convicted of four counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts against T.C. (Pen. Code, § 288, subd. (a)). On appeal, Lewis argued that the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury on the statute of limitations. Held: Affirmed. The statute of limitations for a violation of section 288 is either six years (Pen. Code, § 800) or one year from the date the abuse is reported to a law enforcement agency (Pen. Code, § 803, subd. (g)(1)), whichever is later. In 1997, the Legislature amended section 803, subdivision (g)(1) to expressly require a report to a “California law enforcement agency” rather than “a law enforcement agency.” Lewis argued that T.C.’s reports to Texas law enforcement qualified as a report within the meaning of former section 803, subdivision (g)(1), and that it would violate the prohibition against ex post facto laws to apply the 1997 amendment in his case. The Court of Appeal disagreed. The Legislature’s later amendment simply clarified the existing law and can be applied without violating the ex post facto prohibition. The court properly instructed the jury that it had to find that a complaint was filed against Lewis within a year of T.C.’s 2007 report to a California law enforcement agency.

Prosecution for lewd and lascivious acts against a minor 18 years after the alleged abuse occurred was not so delayed that it violated due process. Lewis also moved to dismiss the charges arguing that the lapse of time between the alleged crimes and the filing of the complaint deprived him of due process. The trial court disagreed, finding that any delay was not caused by state action. Lewis appealed. Held: Affirmed. The court assumed, for arguments sake, that due process can be denied by a delayed prosecution even if the state is not responsible for the delay. However, the justification for the delay needs to be balanced against the harm to the defendant. (People v. Catlin (2001) 26 Cal.4th 81, 107.) If the justification is insubstantial a minimal amount of prejudice would suffice. (People v. Dunn-Gonzalez (1996) 47 Cal.App.4th 899, 915.) Here, the justification for the delay was substantial: T.C. did not report the abuse to California authorities for 18 years and once she did a prosecution was commenced within a year. Thus, a strong showing of prejudice was required, which Lewis could not make. He argued that records from T.C.’s report to Texas authorities in 1991 had been lost and that they could have contained information that would have enabled him to impeach T.C. However, the court concluded that this speculative argument was inadequate to establish actual prejudice. (See People v. Jones (2013) 57 Cal.4th 899, 923.) Thus, the justification for the delay outweighed the possible harm to Lewis and the trial court properly denied his motion to dismiss.