Time has run out to arrest a serial bank robber in the Chicago suburbs who has earned the nickname "Wheaton Bandit" after the statue of limitations on the last crime expired .
The statute of limitations expired Wednesday at midnight despite a $50,000 reward.
The thief is accused of stealing about $150,000 from as many as 16 suburban Chicago banks since 2002, seven of them in Wheaton. He last struck Dec. 7, 2006 at the Glen Ellyn Bank and Trust.
The statute of limitations on bank robbery is five years. The expiration means the thief cannot be charged for any of the crimes.
Authorities said the "Wheaton Bandit" often wore a dark ski mask or hood. No one was injured in any of the robberies.
There is logic behind the statute of limitations.
In part, it's to protect people accused of crimes who are actually innocent.
If you're charged with a crime that happened ten or twenty years ago, your ability to mount a defense is compromised -- witnesses have moved or even died, memories have faded, and physical evidence has deteriorated.
The statute also keeps prosecutors moving ahead.
"Focus your energies. See what you have. And if you can move forward in two years, three years, four years, whatever the statute of limitations is, go forward. Turn your attention to something else,” IIT Chicago – Kent College of Law’s Harold Kent said. “Again I think society in the long run benefits from such limitations so from time to time there's a case that seems to fall in the cracks that seems to be totally unfair."
Another case that's been in the news also involves the statute of limitations.
Local prosecutors in upstate New York say they have strong evidence that former Syracuse University basketball coach Bernie Fine sexually abused two boys.
But they're not charging him because the statute of limitations expired.
In Pennsylvania, the law allows for an extension of the statute of limitations in cases of child molestation.
That's why Jerry Sandusky -- the coach from Penn State -- has been charged.
Illinois has a similar extension.
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