Ex Post Facto

Stogner v. California, No. 01-1757

The petitioner in Stogner v. California was a former priest facing child molestation charges for acts he allegedly committed between 1955 and 1973. Although a three-year statute of limitations was in place during the years his alleged crimes took place, he was not indicted until 1998, after the state enacted its new statute of limitations authorizing prosecutions for child sexual abuse so long as the cases are begun within a year of a victim's first complaint to the police.

While the dissenters would have upheld the new law and permitted the trial to take place, Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, and Ginsburg, struck it down on the grounds that the Ex Post Facto Clause, which bars laws that criminalize conduct that was legal when originally performed, also forbids the government from reviving a previously time-barred prosecution.

Read the California Court of Appeals opinion that the new law was not unconstitutional as an ex post facto law.

Read the petitioner's brief that Marion R. Stogner filed with the Supreme Court.

Read the respondent's brief that the State of California filed to defend its law.

Read the Supreme Court's transcript of the oral arguments in the case.

Read the Supreme Court's ruling that the new law violated the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause because it inflicted punishment when the petitioner was not, by law, liable to any punishment.

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