Currently, in 16 states, there is no statute of limitations for someone to be prosecuted for sexual assault and rape. California could join those states if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill that's currently on his desk.
The bill, dubbed the Justice for Victims Act was unanimously passed by the state senate after passing the state assembly last month. One legislator called the bill "long overdue." It would end the current time limits for prosecuting people accused of these crimes. The present time limit is 10 years unless DNA evidence is found later. For sexual offenses involving a minor, a person can be prosecuted any time up until the alleged victim turns 40.
Proposed Legislation Was Inspired in Part by Bill Cosby's Accusers
The state senator who introduced the legislation in that house says that she was driven to do so after dozens of women accused comedian Bill Cosby of rape and other sex crimes, but weren't able to see him prosecuted because the statutes of limitations had long expired. In at least one case, a state lifted its statute of limitations, but too late for the accuser to press charges.
Cosby is facing prosecution in Pennsylvania on felony sexual assault charges. The accuser in that case pressed charges nine years into that state's statute of limitations of 12 years. Cosby has claimed that his relationships with these women were consensual.
Opponents Say That Statutes of Limitations Help Protect People from Being Wrongly Accused and Convicted
The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed the legislation. An ACLU official said, "When a case is prosecuted literally decades after the event, it becomes much more difficult to prove that you are wrongfully accused." She asserted that a statute of limitations helps protect innocent people from being convicted of a crime they didn't commit.
If Gov. Brown signs the bill into law, it wouldn't apply to any alleged crimes where the current statute of limitations would have expired by the beginning of next year.
It's essential that anyone who is accused of rape or other sexually-based offense seek experienced legal guidance to ensure that your rights are protected and that your side of the story is presented effectively. A conviction can impact the rest of a person's life.
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