The California state senate has approved legislation that would enable the indefinite criminal prosecution of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation and sexual penetration.
SB813 is designed to eliminate the escape clause rapists and sexual predators currently have that allow them to evade legal consequences in California simply because the statute of limitations has expired. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that only 2 of every 100 rapists are convicted of a felony and spend any time in prison.
The proposed legislation is strongly supported by San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos; however, it is opposed by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the California Public Defenders Association. These organizations claim firstly, that the bill does not address the core problem of the under-prosecution of rape cases; and secondly, the fact that women who come forward years later may still not be believed by law enforcement.
There are currently only 8 states in the nation that do not have any statute of limitations for prosecuting felony sexual assault. Under existing California law in crimes that involve sexual offenses against a minor, the statute of limitations expires when the victim turns 28 years old. In cases of rape the statute of limitations is 10 years.
According to law however, there are some DNA exceptions. A criminal complaint may be filed within 1 year of the date on which the identity of the suspect is conclusively established by DNA testing if the offense was committed prior to January 1, 2001 and biological evidence collected in connection with the offense was analyzed for DNA type no later than January 1, 2004; or if the offense was committed on or after January 1, 2001, and biological evidence collected in connection with the offense is analyzed for DNA type no later than 2 years from the date of the offense.
The bill will now be considered by the state assembly.