FBI confiscates item stolen 138 years ago

I saw an article on CNN of how Bill of Rights stolen 138 years ago was recovered. The FBI nabbed some guy as he tried to sell it.

This strikes me as odd that the FBI can jump in like that. Isn’t the statute of limitations well over for a crime committed 138 years ago? Or can stolen merchandise be recovered at any time after the crime?

I think the statute of limitations would only apply to the initial theft. The original culprit is long beyond prosecution.

The stolen object however remains stolen until it is returned. Posessing and selling stolen property is the current crime.

I wonder if each of the original 13 States got a copy, plus one copy for their creation, the newly formed Fed.government.

Besides that, I would think that the only way they could convict the would-be seller is if they can prove he knew that he wasn’t allowed to have it.

IAAL, and the OP raises a good point. Both civil and criminal matters have statutes of limitation, which would have run long ago.

Maybe I’m missing something obvious (it’s been a busy week), but the only thing I can come up with is a tolling argument. (Sometimes S/L’s don’t run under certain conditions. Concealment by the person in possession of the document may toll the applicable statute.) No time to look it up, and my gut is that my argument is pretty weak.

I’m no lawyer, but I’ve dealt with vaguely similar problems. One argument may be that because that paper is a governing document of the United States, its possession by the United States cannot be alienated. In other words, no matter what series of transactions placed that document in the hands of that person today, all of those transactions in effect never happened because the document is still the property of the United States unless the U.S. expressly renounces its possession of it.

Indian land claims have a similar status: the land is held by the United States in trust for an Indian tribe, and it cannot be alienated without the express consent of the federal government. When that land is “stolen” (and plenty of it was) the title of the land never legally goes into the hands of anyone else without the express consent of Congress. Later transactions just never legally happened, no matter what someone paid for the title or how long they’ve been there or how unfair it is to take it away from the great-grandson of Snidely Whiplash. It wasn’t someone’s to sell in the first place.

The AP story says the warrant was issued “based on probable cause that stolen property had been transported across state lines”. The statute is 18 USC 2314. That’s why the FBI was involved presumably.

According to this article no arrests were made, the document was just confiscated.

So it seems like there is a statue of limitations on the crime, but not on the objects stolen. I wonder if it is because it’s a special government document.

How about if it wasn’t a government document. What if it was a customized revolver stolen from my great-great-great-great-grandpappy. One day I see that it’s being auctioned off. Could I just storm into the auction and take back the revolver? Assuming I could prove that it was the same revolver and that it was stolen from him?

Gee, you mean if I steal a car and keep it for eleventy-something years I get clear title to it? I understood that S/Ls protected me from going to jail, but the original owner can still get his car back, right?

A civil and a criminal law component to the OP, right?

If, say The Mona Lisa, is missing for twenty years, then Interpol hears about a transaction for money going down, we aren’t arguing whether or not they should be there too; we are arguing about how many police cars should be at the scene, right?

Same here.

Look at it this way, if there is a statute of limitations for murder and it passes then no one can be prosecuted for the crime but the victim is still dead. The car or bill or rights remains stolen property.