California may soon eliminate the statute of limitations for rape charges

From The Washington Post:


California has become the latest battleground in a nationwide push to relax or eliminate the statutes of limitations on sexual-assault crimes, recently passing a bill that would make it the 17th state to allow rape victims to pursue charges at any point after an attack. Gov. Jerry Brown must approve or veto the measure by month’s end.

State Sen. Connie M. Leyva, the bill’s author, said Democratic and Republican legislators supported the measure. On Tuesday, she joined rape victims, activists and women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred at the statehouse in Sacramento to urge Brown to end the state’s 10-year limit.

“People are starting to realize rape is a serious crime,” Leyva said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It does not happen by accident. It’s a conscious decision by a rapist. The victim should always have the opportunity to come forward.”

The debate over how much time accusers should have to report rape recently turned high-profile in California, where several of Bill Cosby’s accusers say he drugged and sexually assaulted them years and even decades ago.

Nearly three dozen states and the District of Columbia have statutes of limitations on filing sexual-assault charges. Length and circumstance vary by location. Victims in Minnesota, for example, must pursue charges within three years. The reporting window in Louisiana, meanwhile, stretches three decades. Twenty-seven states will extend or suspend time frames if DNA evidence links a suspect to an attack.

Some lawmakers argue that statutes of limitations arbitrarily cut off victims, who sometimes take years to process an attack or work up the courage to come forward. Others say that opening the door for decades-old accusations could encourage false reports with flimsy evidence. The existing law, they note, already makes exceptions for new DNA matches.

“The statute of limitations is there …

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