State v. Ward
Connecticut General Statutes §54-193(c) may toll the statute of limitations when a defendant absents himself from the jurisdiction with reason to believe that an investigation may ensue as a result of his actions. Following a jury trial, James Ward, charged in 2007 for a 1988 incident, was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree. He appealed claiming, chiefly, that the trial court improperly denied his motion to dismiss because the five year statute of limitations applicable to the offense, C.G.S. §54-193(b), had expired and had not, as the trial court concluded, been tolled pursuant to C.G.S. §54-193(c) because he fled the state. The defendant principally asserted that he did not flee the state because he returned to his home in Massachusetts after the crime. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. C.G.S. §54-193(c) provides that [i]f the person against whom an indictment, information or complaint for any of said offenses is brought has fled from and resided out of this state during the period so limited, it may be brought against him at any time within such period, during which he resides in this state, after the commission of the offense. The plain language of C.G.S. §54-193(c) did not support the defendants construction that a defendant is required to flee with the intent to avoid prosecution. The term fled is not defined by statute. From dictionary definitions and in the context of C.G.S. §54-193(c), it was understood to mean to run away from investigation and hurry toward a place of security, outside the jurisdiction. The Court concluded that C.G.S. §54-193(c) may toll the statute of limitations when a defendant absents himself from the jurisdiction with reason to believe that an investigation may ensue as the result of his actions. Here, the defendant, due to his conduct in the victims home, had reason to believe that an investigation would ensue. He, undisputedly, returned to Massachusetts after the crime and continually resided there until his arrest more than 20 years later. The trial court properly denied the motion to dismiss and concluded that the state had shown probable cause that the statute of limitations had been tolled. Additionally, sufficient evidence was presented for the jury to conclude that the statute of limitations was tolled.