Statute of limitations in rape cases eliminated in Calif.

edmund_g_brown_jrLast Wednesday, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to eliminate the state’s existing statute of limitations for sex-related crimes.

Previously, there was a 10 year period in which acts of sexual assault were able to be reported, with the exception of special cases when new DNA evidence was brought to light. Additionally, cases of child sexual molestation had the potential for a longer statute of limitations, as long as the victim was not yet 40 years old. The newly signed bill will eliminate the time limit in which victims are able to press charges. Currently, the only other crime with no statute of limitations is murder.

Many observers have connected the newly signed bill to allegations against the once-beloved American TV star Bill Cosby. In the past year, over 30 women have come forward, accusing Cosby of separate sexual assault cases that occurred anywhere between 1960 and 1990. Due to the pre-existing statute of limitations, prosecutors were never able to charge Cosby because the various incidents occurred outside of the 10 year time frame.

Senior Alli Knapp shares her stance on how the newly signed bill will change the future for sexual assault victims.

“I think this is really great and liberating for victims of sexual assault to have an opportunity and voice for justice,” Knapp said. “I can see how issues of memory loss can create a problem but I think this is so minute compared to the freedom that it brings.”

The new California law will be put in action on Jan. 1, 2017 and will only affect new cases. Cases in which the statute of limitations has not expired by Jan. 1 will no longer have a statute of limitations with the new bill. Even with the new law in place, Cosby will not be able to be tried for any incidents occurring before the previously allotted time frame. Cosby has denied the accusations but will be put on trial in 2017 due to charges of sexually assaulting a woman in 2004.

Photo courtesy of The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia

Photo courtesy of The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia

Some have expressed concern that after longer than a decade, it is difficult to recall specific facts about incidents. This creates the potential for creation of false details and possible false charges. It is for these reasons that the statute of limitations was created in the first place.

Junior Benn Joyce shares his opinion on the liberation this bill will bring to men and women.

“I don’t think this bill is going to hurt, the whole point is to help those and by extending the time limit people will have a longer opportunity to come forward,” Joyce said. “Yeah extending the time limit can create issues of foggy memory but victims will ultimately know what happened and now they can get the resources they need and justice can be served.”

This newly signed bill tells California sexual assault victims that, no matter how long it takes for them to come forward, they will have the opportunity to state their case and seek justice in court. The elimination of the time frame will allow victims to freely press charges when they feel the time is right.

Written by Abby Gentry, Asst. News Editor