BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A man charged with raping an 8-year-old Billings girl after DNA evidence linked him to the 1987 case cannot be tried because the statute of limitations has run out, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in an opinion released Thursday.

The court ordered charges dismissed against Ronald Dwight Tipton, the Billings Gazette reported .

Tipton had pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual intercourse without consent after DNA testing linked him to the case in 2014.

The statute of limitations in the case expired in 2001. Under a 2007 law, a DNA match would add a year to any expired statute of limitations in sexual assault or rape cases. The state argued the law was intended to solve cold cases and applied to Tipton.

The Supreme Court disagreed, citing a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution "prohibits the government from bringing new charges once the state's statute of limitations for the crime has expired," according to a synopsis of Thursday's opinion.

Another man was convicted of the rape and spent 15 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2002.

In November, District Judge Mary Jane Knisely denied a motion by Tipton to dismiss the charges, saying the 2007 law was clearly meant to apply retroactively.

Tipton's attorney asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, arguing the 2007 law did not contain any provision that would make it retroactive.

The DNA match to Tipton happened after he agreed to provide a sample as part of a suspended sentence in a drug case.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com