California Passes Bill to Eliminate Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations

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Chelsea Viola
National Beat Reporter

On Sep. 28, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that eliminates the 10-year statute of limitations on rape and other sexual assault charges.

The bill was authored by State Senator Connie Levya (D-Chino) and co-sponsored by San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos and the California Women’s Law Center.

SB 813 tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter…regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law,” Levya said in a statement.

Law professors, public defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union compose the opposition. One of the professors includes associate dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Ty Alper. In Volume 60, Number 4 of the Duke Law Journal, Alper wrote that removing the statute decreases the pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors to act quickly.

The bill emerged from last year’s controversy over allegations that comedian and actor Bill Cosby had raped multiple women over the span of multiple decades. Dozens of women came forward accusing Cosby of rape but were unable to pursue criminal charges.

“Some of my clients who were accusers of Mr. Cosby testified with me before the California Legislature in support of the Justice for Victims Act,” said Attorney Gloria Allred, the counsel that represents dozens of Cosby accusers.

“It puts sexual predators on notice that the passage of time may no longer protect them from serious criminal consequences for their acts of sexual violence,” Allred said in a statement.

Other states have followed suit in changing criminal legislation. Colorado doubled its statute from 10 to 20 years. Nevada extended its time from 4 to 20 years after a testimony by one of Cosby’s accusers.

Despite efforts by the Cosby accusers, the new legislation will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017 and will not apply to cases before that date.

“Even though it was too late for these accusers,” said Allred, “we decided that we should work to change the law to help others.”