We previously discussed how many rapes cannot result in charges due to the statute of limitations, but after the publicity involved with the Bill Cosby rape accusations, legislators have quickly acted to change things. In fact, as of January 1, 2017, there will no longer be a statute of limitations on any rape charges. Here’s how the law will be changing and how it may affect you if you are accused of rape courtesy of Vista criminal attorney Peter M. Liss.
First, let’s look at the law as it stands right now. There is currently a statute of limitations of six years in most rape cases. DNA evidence discovered after the statute of limitations has expired can provide the police and prosecutors with one more year to bring charges. There are a few exceptions to this rule, notably that there is no statute of limitations in aggravated rape cases and that if a rape victim is under 18, he or she has until her 40th birthday to file charges against the person responsible.
When the law changes, it will not matter if the rape was aggravated or how young the victim was at the time of the attack, if someone is raped, he or she can work with the police to file charges any time afterward. It’s worth noting that this will only apply to rapes that occurred after January 1, 2017, so anyone accused of a rape that was said to take place before this date will still be subject to the earlier statute of limitations. This will be a critical date for any one accused of rape said to have occurred before 2017, which is yet another reason it is always so important to work with a Vista sex crimes defense lawyer who is always up to date on the current changes to the law.
While victim advocates praise the new change, it seems worrisome to many Vista defense lawyers. That’s because many current rape cases are already thin on evidence and often come down to the two parties arguing over whether or not a sexual encounter was consensual -or if it even happened in the first place. Now imagine someone trying to defend themselves against accusations that they raped someone 20, 30 -even 50 or more years ago. For some people it will be difficult to remember whether or not they ever even met someone, let alone what happened when they met. It is likely that more and more accusations will be brought forward as the years progress and that many of these will have absolutely no evidence to back them up. While it will be easy enough to have unfounded charges dropped with the help of a criminal attorney, Vista and other cities in San Diego can seem like very small towns when it comes to gossip and being falsely accused of rape could easily ruin someone’s reputation. Some people may even feel the need to move to a new city or county all together just because they were wrongly accused of raping someone more than a decade ago.
If you have any questions about the new changes to the law or if you have been accused of rape, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Creative Commons Image by Ted & Dani Percival