Statute of Limitations: A Historical Perspective

Topics: Statute of limitations, Civil procedure, Law Pages: 5 (1508 words) Published: April 19, 2012

CRJC 222-01
Community Based Corrections

Goings 1

This research examines the concept of the statute of limitations from a historical perspective. The research will set forth the origins of the concept in Western culture and its evolution from Roman to English law, and then discuss major features of its transfer and application in the American legal system, with a view toward identifying how it was viewed by various legal authorities in the US and various uses to which it has been put.

The concept of the statute of limitations is deceptively simple. In the popular mind, the term refers to the amount of time during which a plaintiff may pursue a cause of civil action in court or, in criminal law, the amount of time that must elapse before a defendant is legally excused from the criminal liability associated with a crime. It is of course a truism of television courtroom drama (and the law, as it happens) that there is no statute of limitations on murder. But as will become clearer in the course of this report, the principal concern of the concept of the statute of limitations has always been connected far more to property and its ownership than to responsibility and its ownership. Their primary function is to set out a maximum time limit in which the prosecutor or plaintiff can present a case against the accused and proceed to trial, ensuring that trials and cases commence in a timely action.

Goings 2

Unless agreed to by both the plaintiff and defendant otherwise, as outlined in a statute in section 786 of the Code, no person can be charged with a summary conviction offence after six months, with the time period beginning “on the date of accrual of the cause of action” (Williams 7). There is a certain restriction concerning the use of the statute of limitation on criminal offences in Canada – it can only be applied to summary conviction offences, and not indictable offences. In the Canadian justice system, maintaining a statute of limitation for summary conviction offences is crucial and beneficial. The statute provides objectivity, efficiency and accuracy to ensure a fair trial for the defendant and plaintiff.Summary conviction offences “are generally less serious offences”, in which both the legal procedure and punishment are less severe than that of indictable offences (Griffiths 19). Less aggressive offences such as impersonating a police officer or failure to pay income taxes qualify as summary offences, or ‘petty offences’ as it was known in olden times.

As a legal concept, statutes of limitation have a complex heritage, dating back to the ancient period, and an even more complex manner of application in different cultures. References to limitation of actions date as early as the Roman period, in connection with laws of inheritance, which were of course related to laws of property. Statue of limitations continually serve a fundamental role in the justice system of democratic Western countries. Goings 3

Several states, as well as Federal legislation, contain a statute of limitations. This statute may very from state to state, or even country to country, but essentially it serves an important purpose. For example, many states have a longer statute regarding murder cases and other serious felonies than smaller misdemeanor crimes. If the legal case is not filled within the required period of time after the charge is first brought, then the case is dismissed (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008)."

Although people often speak of "the statute of limitations", in fact there are many statutes which apply limitations periods to civil actions. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep track of the various statutes and their exceptions. But it is a very good idea for somebody who is concerned about losing their right to sue as a result of the expiration of the statutory limitations period to consult with a qualified lawyer, who can help determine which...

References: Florida Legislature. (2008). Statutes and constitution: online sunshine.
Free Advice
Limitations, statute of. (2008). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:
Rinkle, Ralph
The Oyez Project, Lawrence v. Florida, 549 U.S. ___ (2007),available at: (last visited Friday, March 21, 2008).
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