California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill on Wednesday that removes the state’s 10-year statute of limitation on rape. Victims groups praised the bill, which they say ensures more rape victims can seek justice.
The law was inspired by actor Bill Cosby, who faced backlash last year after dozens of women came forward accusing him of rape. Due to the statute of limitation on rape in the state of California, the women were unable to pursue any criminal charges.
Cosby still faces charges in Pennsylvania for allegedly sexually assaulting and drugging a woman in 2004. He also faces a civil lawsuit in California by a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted her in 1974 at the Playboy Mansion.
While the bill will not give Cosby’s victims justice, it ensures that future rape victims can come forward at any time to report their crimes. The legislation goes into effect on January 1.
The law specifically states that it permits “the prosecution of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, oral copulation, and sexual penetration, that are committed under certain circumstances, as specified, to be commenced at any time.”
Sen. Connie Levya, author of the bill, said the law tells victims “we stand behind you and there is no timeline for justice.”
Opponents of the bill, however, warn that the law could lead to wrongful convictions, as memories fade over time.
Natasha Minsker, American Civil Liberties Union director in Sacramento, said, “We know memories change over time. That’s how people are wrongfully convicted.”
Minsker said the original law allowed for an exception on the statute of limitations if DNA evidence were available.
The U.S. Justice Department says only two in 100 rapists will be convicted and spend time in prison, Reuters reported. The bill will not work retroactively.
California joins Colorado and Nevada in passing similar bills. In these two states, the statutes of limitations for rape cases has been extended to 20 years.