Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stogner v. California case brief

Stogner v. California case brief summary
539 U.S. 607 (2003)

Under a new state law, the State charged defendant with sex-related child abuse after the original statute of limitations had run. The trial court found this revival unconstitutional. The state court of appeals reversed. Defendant moved to dismiss his indictment, based on the Ex Post Facto Clause and the Due Process Clause. The trial court denied the motion. The state appeals court upheld that denial. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.

The statute of limitations governing prosecutions at the time the crimes were allegedly committed had set forth a 3-year limitations period. The new law, enacted more than 22 years after pre-existing limitations periods on the charged crimes had run, permitted resurrection of otherwise time-barred criminal prosecutions. Without the new statute allowing revival of the State's cause of action, the state could not have prosecuted defendant.


  • The Court held that, in sum, the law subjected defendant to prosecution long after the State had, in effect, granted an amnesty, telling him that he was at liberty to return to his country and that from henceforth he could cease to preserve the proofs of his innocence. 
  • The law retroactively withdrew a complete defense to prosecution after it had already attached, and it did so in a manner that allowed the State to withdraw this defense at will and with respect to individuals already identified. 
  • The statute was unfairly retroactive as applied to defendant because it was enacted after expiration of a previously applicable limitations period and, thus, violated the Ex Post Facto Clause.

The Court held that the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause barred application of the new state law to the case at bar. The California court's judgment to the contrary was reversed.

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