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Playing With / Statute of Limitations

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Basic Trope: There is only so much time in which to convict someone of a crime or tort.

  • Straight: Alice is raped, but she never files a police report. She decides to do so years later, for whatever reason(s). The police catch Bob, the man who did it, but he walks on the charge of raping Alice because the rape happened over 10 years ago, which is the statute of limitations on rape charges in their jurisdiction.
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  • Exaggerated: Bob, who is now someone's Nazi Grandpa (or even great-grandpa) walks on charges of war crimes he committed during World War II, simply because of the time that's passed.
  • Downplayed: Alice retells a public domain story. Bob tries to sue her for copyright infringement, but can't, since the story has been around long enough that it's in the public domain, and the original writer/storyteller never left any heirs behind. (Or, if he/she did, they were the ones that released it into the public domain.)
  • Justified:
    • Doing this helps to curb wrongful convictions or false accusations.
    • It also helps to ensure that criminals face justice promptly.
    • It gives victims/plaintiffs time to come forward if (for whatever reason(s)) they don't do so at the time of the crime/tort.
  • Inverted: There is only so much time in which to commit a crime.
  • Subverted:
    • Bob gets convicted of other rapes.
    • Alice files a police report right away, but then decides not to press charges.
    • Alice doesn't press criminal charges against Bob, though she does press civil charges (e.g. Pain and Suffering)
    • BigPharmaCo Inc. releases a new drug to the public. Decades later, deadly side-effects show up, or women who took the drug have babies with birth defects. In order to prevent lawsuits, BigPharmaCo recalls the product, and urges doctors not to prescribe it anymore.
    • Bob can't be charged with the rape itself, but the wounds he inflicted at the time finally kill Alice, and there's no statute of limitations on murder.
    • Bob faces charges of war crimes he committed decades ago, which are valid, as there is no statute of limitations on those attrocities.
  • Double Subverted:
    • But he walks on one or more of the "counts" because they happened so long ago.
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    • Alice changes her mind and wants to press charges against Bob, but only has a limited window of time in which to do so.
    • There is only a limited amount of time in which to press civil charges against Bob.
    • There is still time to file a class-action suit against BigPharmaCo. And as more deaths/birth-defects/etc. are linked to the drug, that time increases.
    • Bob still doesn't go to Prison, face execution, or even stand trial, because he is well into his 90's and suffering from Alzheimer's disease and deemed too senile to face trial. (The court figures that not only is he not competent to stand trial, he'll probably die soon anyway.)
  • Parodied: The SOL only lasts three days.
  • Zig Zagged: Some crimes have statutes of limitations, others don't.
  • Averted:
    • Alice files a police report and presses charges right away.
    • Alice never presses charges against Bob, and may not have even filed a police report.
    • Bob never raped Alice in the first place.
    • In this jurisdiction, there is no time limit on pressing charges for rape (or some other crimes, for that matter).
  • Enforced: Rule of Drama
  • Lampshaded: ???
  • Invoked: Alice is raped by Bob, but she is too ashamed of what happened to her, and/or too afraid, to come forward. Years later, Alice has gotten over that, or hears about him hurting other girls/women, and decides to come forward.
  • Exploited:
    • Bob decides to hide out in Mexico for the next decade and keep a low profile, to escape the law.
    • Bob's attorney questions why Alice waited so long to press charges, in order to convince the jury that her testimony is unreliable, or even that she's making it all up.
  • Defied: Alice decides to file a report and press charges right away.
  • Discussed: ???
  • Conversed: "Couldn't that girl just file a report immediately?"
  • Implied: Carol encourages Alice to report her rape after some time has passed. Alice does so off-screen. When Carol asks her what happened, Alice says it's been too long.

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