Rapists and child molesters will no longer be able to avoid prosecution due to the statute of limitations in California.
The Justice for Victims Act, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) Wednesday, abolishes the state’s 10-year statute of limitations for rape, child molestation and other felony sex crimes, starting next year.
“Rape survivors face many barriers to reporting this crime, but an arbitrary legal time limit is no longer a barrier in California,” said Caroline Heldman, an Occidental College professor who co-chaired the EndRapeSOL campaign that called for such a law. “This law will only affect a small number of survivors who have solid evidence that a crime occurred many years after the fact, but for these survivors, this law is life-changing.”
Seventeen other states have already eliminated the statute of limitations on rape, the Associated Press reports, citing the California Women’s Law Center.
The change comes after dozens of women have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual abuse. Except for one case in suburban Philadelphia, prosecutors couldn’t charge Cosby because the alleged incidents took place too long ago. Cosby has pleaded not guilty in that case.
Some of the alleged incidents took place in California. One woman who sued Cosby said that she was 17 when he drugged and molested her at a party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
Six of Cosby’s accusers testified in favor of the California bill earlier this year. The new law is not retroactive, so the women won’t be able to bring cases because of it. However, attorney Gloria Allred, who represents several of Cosby’s accusers, said it’s a positive step.
“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.