In the ongoing saga of rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, California has become one of two states that has proposed a law that would extend the statute of limitations in the prosecution of rape cases. The proposed bill, which passed both houses of the Legislature, follows a new law in Nevada that increases the legal deadline for rape prosecution from four to 20 years. In California, the statute of limitations to prosecute a rape case is currently 10 years. Almost three dozen states, including the District of Columbia, have statute of limitations on filing sexual assault charges or lawsuits.
The state’s governor, Jerry Brown, who has had a history of vetoing bills extending legal deadlines for filing lawsuits over child sex abuse, must approve or sign into law the bill by the end of the month.
This bill however, is not the only one Governor Jerry Brown must decide to veto or approve. The California legislature, in response to the outrage over the six-month jail sentence for Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner also passed a bill that would mandate a minimum three-year sentence for those convicted of rape or sexual assault. The proposed bill would eliminate a judge’s discretion to sentence defendants convicted of such crimes to probation. Brock Turner was released from jail earlier this month for ‘good behavior,’ after serving three months (half) of his sentence. Had this proposed law been in place, he would still be in jail.
What are Statutes of Limitations?
Every state has something called a statute of limitations, which is generally defined as the time limit for a criminal or civil action. In other words, once a statute of limitations has passed, one may no longer be prosecuted or sued for his or her crimes. A statute of limitations typically begins to run from the date the injury or crime was discovered.
In California, the state’s code has specific time limits for specific crimes, such as fraud, injury to personal property, and malpractice. The current California statute of limitations on prosecuting felony rape and sexual assault cases is 10 years after the crime occurs, or for incidents involving minors, until they reach the age of 26. Continue reading