Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607, 25 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 607 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

likelihood that "criminals keep calendars" to mark the expiration of limitations periods, and it mocks the possibility that revival "destroys a reliance interest." Ibid. Third, the dissent emphasizes the harm that child molestation causes, a harm that "will plague the victim for a lifetime," and stresses the need to convict those who abuse children. Post, at 651.

In making the first argument, the dissent reverses field, abandoning its historical literalism to appeal to practical consequences. But history, case law, and constitutional purposes all are relevant. At a minimum, the first two of these adequately explain the difference between expired and unexpired statutes of limitations, and Chase's alternative description of second category laws itself supports such a distinction. See supra, at 613-614, 618-619.

In making its second argument, which denies the existence of significant reliance interests, the dissent ignores the potentially lengthy period of time (in this case, 22 years) during which the accused lacked notice that he might be prosecuted and during which he was unaware, for example, of any need to preserve evidence of innocence. See supra, at 609-610. Memories fade, and witnesses can die or disappear. See supra, at 615-616. Such problems can plague child abuse cases, where recollection after so many years may be uncertain, and "recovered" memories faulty, but may nonetheless lead to prosecutions that destroy families. See, e. g., Holdsworth, Is It Repressed Memory with Delayed Recall or Is It False Memory Syndrome? The Controversy and Its Potential Legal Implications, 22 Law & Psychol. Rev. 103, 103-104 (1998). Regardless, a constitutional principle must apply not only in child abuse cases, but in every criminal case. And, insofar as we can tell, the dissent's principle would permit the State to revive a prosecution for any kind of crime without any temporal limitation. Thus, in the criminal context, the dissent goes beyond our prior statements of what is constitutionally permissible even in the


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