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the period established by law for protecting a violated right (limitation of actions) and the period upon whose expiration, provided that certain conditions established by law have been met, a person is relieved of criminal responsibility (limitation on instituting criminal proceedings) or it becomes impossible to carry out the appointed punishment (limitation on execution of a judgment of guilty).
Civil law. Lmitation of actions in civil law is the right to turn to the court for protection of one’s violated right—a concept that is known in the legislation of a majority of states. In the USSR, limitation of actions is applied in relationships among socialist organizations and among citizens (Basic Principles of Civil Legislation of the USSR of 1961, arts. 16–17, and the Civil Code of the RSFSR, arts. 78–91).
In the USSR, the general periods of limitation of actions established by legislation are three years for actions by and against citizens and one year for actions by state organizations, kolkhozes, and other cooperative and public organizations against each other. Reduced periods of limitation of actions (less than three years and one year) are provided for certain causes of action arising out of relationships whose regulation is within the jurisdiction of the USSR. In a number of instances these periods are stated in the civil codes of the Union republics. For example, six-month periods of limitation apply to actions for the exaction of liquidated damages and penalties, for defects in articles that have been sold, for delivery of goods of improper quality or goods in incomplete units, and for improper performance under an independentwork contract. Reduced periods of limitation also apply to actions by a carrier against senders, receivers, or passengers. (For actions against the carrier, the period of limitation of actions is two months.) The periods of limitation cannot be increased or decreased by agreement of the parties.
The period of limitation of actions begins to run on the day when the right to bring an action arises; that is, the day on which the person knows or should know of the violation of his rights. In some instances, the law defines the time when the right to bring an action arises as the moment when the fact that a right had been violated is established (for example, the moment when the customer establishes, in the appropriate way. defects or incompleteness in goods).
The period of limitation of actions is suspended if the bringing of an action has been prevented by an event that was, under the circumstances, extraordinary and unavoidable (irresistible force), if there is a moratorium on proceedings, and if the plaintiff or defendant is a member of the armed forces of the USSR when they are placed on an active basis. The running of a period of limitation of actions is suspended if these circumstances arise or continue to exist during the final six months of the period of limitation or, if the period of limitation is less than six months, if they arise at any point during the period of limitation. On the day that the circumstances cease to exist, the period of limitation begins to run again, and the remaining part of the period is extended for six months. If the period of limitation was less than six months. its remainder is extended for a period equivalent to the original period of limitation.
The running of a period of limitation may be interrupted by the bringing of a suit in the prescribed manner. In disputes in which at least one of the parties is a citizen, the running of the period of limitation may be interrupted by acts of the obligated party that are evidence that he acknowledges his debt (for example, a written statement to that effect). After an interruption, the period of limitation recommences, but the time that ran out prior to the interruption is not counted in the new period. An action is accepted by a court, a court of arbitration, or mutually appointed arbitrators regardless of whether the period of limitation has expired. Subsequently, a decision may be rendered to reject the action if the period of limitation has expired. The court, court of arbitration, or mutually appointed arbitrators have the right to extend the period of limitation if the reason for its expiration is considered excusable. Not only general but also reduced periods of limitation of actions can be suspended, interrupted, or extended, provided that there is no special legal prohibition.
If a debtor performs an obligation after the expiration of the period of limitation, he is not entitled to demand the return of the performance.
Limitation of actions does not apply to claims arising out of the violation of personal nonproperty rights, with the exception of cases specified by law. In addition, limitation of actions does not apply to claims of state organizations involving the return of state property from the unlawful possession of kolkhozes and other cooperative and public organizations or citizens.
General periods of limitation are, as a rule, established in the laws of foreign states (ten years in France and Italy and 30 years in the Federal Republic of Germany). There are also reduced periods of limitation for certain types of contracts.
M. P. RING
Criminal law. Soviet criminal law provides for two types of limitation: limitation for instituting criminal proceedings and limitation for execution of a judgment of guilty (Basic Principles of Criminal Legislation of the USSR of 1958, arts. 41–42, and the Criminal Code of the RSFSR, arts. 48–49). The periods of limitation depend on the gravity of the crime committed or on the sentence assigned. In order to be relieved of responsibility or punishment, a number of conditions must be met, in addition to the expiration of the established period of limitation. First, during the period of limitation, the guilty person must not have committed a new crime for which he could be sentenced to deprivation of freedom for a period of more than two years (or a period of at least one year, where limitation for execution of a sentence is involved) or to banishment and exile for a period of at least three years. The guilty person must not have hidden from investigation or from the court. The maximum period of limitation is 15 years. The question of applying limitation to a person who has committed a crime for which the death penalty could be assigned by law or to a person sentenced to death is decided by the court. If the court finds it possible to apply limitation, the death penalty is commuted to deprivation of freedom.
The statutes of Soviet law on limitation do not apply to military criminals. International law also establishes that limitation does not apply to military criminals and to crimes against humanity.
In Soviet criminal law the periods of limitation for instituting criminal proceedings are from one to ten years. Upon expiration of the period, the guilty party cannot be held criminally responsible, and if a criminal case against him has been initiated, it must be stopped.
Limitation for execution of a judgment of guilty means that the sentence may not be carried out if it has not been carried out during the period established by law (from three to ten years), counting from the day that the sentence took legal effect.
The running of periods of limitation may be interrupted if an accused person or one who has been found guilty commits a new crime before the period of limitation has expired or if a person found guilty evades serving his sentence. (However, in such instances, the guilty party cannot be made to serve the sentence if 15 years have passed since the sentence was rendered and if the period of limitation has not been interrupted by the commission of a new crime.) The period of limitation may be interrupted if the accused person hides from investigation or from the court. (In such cases the period of limitation recommences at the moment that the person is arrested or turns himself in.)
Periods of limitation are also established in the criminal law of most capitalist states. For example, in Austria the maximum period of limitation for criminal prosecution is 20 years, but limitation is not applied to execution of sentence. In the USA the periods of limitation are regulated by the criminal codes of the individual states. and there are many restrictions on the application of limitation. In Finland the maximum period of limitation for instituting criminal proceedings is 20 years, and for execution of sentence, 30 years. In the Federal Republic of Germany, according to the law of 1969, the maximum period is 30 years. except for genocide, to which limitation does not apply. The maximum period of limitation on execution of sentence in Japan is 30 years.
M. IU. RAGINSKII