California Eliminates Statute Of Limitations For Rape Cases

In a bill some say is inspired by disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, the statute of limitations will be eliminated on rape cases in California.

The bill was signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 28, and goes into effect in 2017. It will impact new sexual assault cases and any case for which the statute of limitations hasn't expired by Jan. 1, 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Advocates lauded Brown and State Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat, for signing and sponsoring the bill, respectively.

Levya said the new law communicates to rape and sex assault victims "that they matter."

"It shows victims and survivors that California stands behind them," she told the Los Angeles Times, "that we see rape as a serious crime, that victims can come forward and that justice now has no time limit."

Previously, the statute of limitations in California was 10 years, except in cases where new DNA evidence becomes available. Cases of sexual molestation against minors had a potentially longer statute of limitations, with the law saying they must be prosecuted before the alleged victims turn 40 years old.

Brown didn't issue a statement after signing the bill, but observers have tied the new law to allegations against Cosby, the longtime TV star. Once known as "America's dad," the supposed family man who advocated for wholesome values and family-friendly entertainment, has found himself battling sexual abuse allegations for the past several years, with dozens of women coming forward with stories about their encounters with him.

The alleged victims almost uniformly described the same modus operandi, accusing Cosby of drugging them and sexually assaulting them while they were unconscious. While the new California law won't help prosecute Cosby, the comedian is scheduled to stand trial in 2017 on accusations that he sexually assaulted a woman in Philadelphia in 2004, according to Newsweek.

The allegations against Cosby have prompted other states to extend statutes of limitations. Lawmakers in Colorado doubled the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases from 10 to 20 years, according to Newsweek, while Nevada lawmakers increased the limitations in that state from four years to 20.

Gloria Allred, who represents more than 30 women who have come forward with allegations against Cosby, told the Hollywood Reporter that in most cases it was “too late for California prosecutors to file a case even if they concluded that they had sufficient evidence to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt."

Sources: NPR, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Hollywood Reporter, / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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