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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Martinez, California, argued the cause for the petitioner)
(On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent)
(Sacramento, California, argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

In 1993, California enacted a new criminal statute of limitations permitting prosecution for sex-related child abuse where the prior limitations period has expired if the prosecution is begun within one year of a victim's report to police. In 1998, Marion Stogner was indicted for sex-related child abuse committed between 1955 and 1973. Without the new statute allowing revival of the State's cause of action, California could not have prosecuted Stogner. Stogner moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Ex Post Facto Clause forbids revival of a previously time-barred prosecution. The trial court agreed, but the California Court of Appeal reversed. The trial court denied Stogner's subsequent dismissal motion, in which he argued that his prosecution violated the Ex Post Facto and Due Process Clauses. The Court of Appeal affirmed.


Does the Ex Post Facto Clause bar the application of California's retroactive extension of the statutes of limitations for sexual offenses committed against minors?

Decision: 5 votes for Stogner, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 10: Ex Post Facto

Yes. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that a law enacted after expiration of a previously applicable limitations period violates the Ex Post Facto Clause when it is applied to revive a previously time-barred prosecution. The Court reasoned that the features of the law produce the kind of retroactivity that the Constitution forbids by inflicting punishment where the party was not, by law, liable to any punishment. "After...the original statute of limitations had expired,...Stogner was not 'liable to any punishment,'" wrote Justice Breyer. "California's new statute therefore 'aggravated' Stogner's alleged crime, or made it 'greater than it was, when committed,' in the sense 'inflicted punishment' for past criminal conduct that...did not trigger any such liability." In his dissent, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy argued, "A law which does not alter the definition of the crime but only revives prosecution does not make the crime 'greater than it was, when committed.'"

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STOGNER v. CALIFORNIA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
STOGNER v. CALIFORNIA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"STOGNER v. CALIFORNIA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,