The California Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting rape and other felony sex crimes. The bill is expected to easily pass the senate and will then head to the governor’s desk for signature.
Currently, California law sets a 10 year limit for prosecuting sexual assault cases unless DNA evidence emerges after that time, and sexual abuse committed against minors must be tried before the victim turns 40. This new bill would eliminate those restrictions, giving survivors more time to report.
“Currently, California has no time limit on prosecuting murder or the embezzlement of public money,” said Ivy Bottini and Caroline Heldman, co-chairs of the End Rape Statute of Limitations Campaign. “Surely rape should be treated as seriously as embezzlement.”
“To some extent, the call to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape is a call for social recognition that rape is a very serious crime,” Robert Weisberg, professor of law at Stanford University told The Daily Beast.
The bill was inspired by the more than 50 women who have come forward with accusations of rape against Bill Cosby, alleging they were assaulted by the comedian in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, too long ago to press charges now. Unfortunately, the bill will not apply retroactively in compliance with the Constitution’s ex post facto clause, though advocates say, it is still a step forward.
34 states currently have laws that set statutes of limitations ranging from three to thirty years for sexual assault. It is estimated that only three percent of rapists ever serve jail time for their crimes.