Baltimore museum looks to untangle decades-old art theft

In 1951, a landscape pained by famed artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir was apparently stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art. The work was missing for over 60 years until it turned up at an out-of-state yard sale last year. This development may have many wondering whether or not authorities would like to move forward with an investigation in order to file theft charges.

Since this particular incident involves an incident that took place many, many years ago, the main issue at work is the statute of limitations, which would likely rule out any art theft charges in this case. Since the painting was transported over state lines it would be treated as a federal case, but the applicable statute of limitations would prevent charges any more than 20 years after the incident occurred.

Currently, the main legal issue in this case is determining who the rightful owner of the painting is. At this time, at least six parties have placed a claim on the painting, which has sent the issue has gone to federal court to be sorted out.

With the advent of forensic technology, it’s not uncommon for investigators to pursue evidence and charges years after an incident took place. Of course, this scenario also presents issues of evidence contamination, which could lead to charges filed against the wrong people. When facing the possibility of criminal charges, it’s important to make sure that there are legal grounds for the charges. As such, the statute of limitations — which includes notable exceptions for some violent crimes — is an overarching legal concept that must be considered.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Court’s help sought in case of stolen Renoir painting,” Mary Carole McCauley, March 15, 2013

  • Our firm has handles a wide-variety of criminal charges. To learn more about the topics discussed in this blog post, please visit our Maryland theft defense page.

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