A new law that will end the statute of limitations on rape and child molestation charges was passed in California by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday. The Justice for Victims Act eliminates the 10-year limit for prosecutors to bring rape, child molestation and other felony sex crime charges against a defendant. The bill will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Seventeen other states have eliminated their own statute of limitations on such cases. Colorado recently doubled their time limit, and Nevada increased their time limit from four years to 20.
These changes in the law have come about after dozens of women to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual abuse. All but one of the women cannot charge Cosby with rape because the alleged incidents took place more than 10 years ago. Cosby, the leading man in the long-running sitcom “The Cosby Show,” has repeatedly denied the accusations of his assaults and insists that all his sexual encounters were consensual. The one case that is still prosecutable, in Pennsylvania, is on track to go to trial.
Even though the majority of Cosby’s alleged victims still cannot bring charges against him, since the updated state laws are not retroactive, attorney Gloria Allred, who represents several of Cosby’s accusers, said this is one positive step forward.
“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,” she said.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only two in 100 rapists will spend any time in prison and be convicted of a felony.
Those against the bill say this new law could lead to false convictions in the future, since both victims’ and witnesses’ fade with the passing of time. Those in support of the bill believe it provides justice for the victims of rapists and child molesters.
“Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired,” California state Sen. Connie Leyva said in a statement. “There must never be an expiration date on justice!”