If Bill Cosby’s recent arrest has taught us anything, it’s that no one is too famous or too beloved to be charged with sexual assault. It is also a great reminder of the statute of limitations related to these types of accusations. In fact, Cosby would not have been arrested for this 2004 offense, if it had occurred in San Diego. Defense lawyer Peter M. Liss explains.
In California, there is no statute of limitations for aggravated rape, which is defined as a rape that involves a weapon, more than one offender or that results in serious bodily injury. That means that in these cases, it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since the actual act, a person can always be arrested and tried for these crimes. Most rape cases though have a statute of limitations of six years. If DNA evidence is made available after the statute of limitations, prosecutors and police have a year from the date of discovery to file charges. DNA evidence isn’t limited to items taken in the rape kit after an alleged sex crime occurred.
With the Cosby case, for example, if one of the accusers had a child that she believes could have been born as a result of the rape, she could consent to having the child’s DNA tested to match it witch Cosby. If the DNA was a match, prosecutors would have a year to charge Cosby. As it stands right now though, despite the fact that many women in California have come forward to say that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them, all of the accusers have said the incidents occurred more than six years ago and none of the accusations can be classified as aggravated rape. The comedian was arrested in Pennsylvania for a 2004 rape because that state has a different statute of limitations than California.
Despite the fact that no charges could be brought against Cosby in California so far, police are continuing to investigate accusations against the actor because even those who cannot file charges against him can be presented as witnesses against him if charges are brought against him in California. It’s worth noting that even if the state government changed the statute of limitations for rape, it wouldn’t affect any existing crimes because the statute of limitations in effect at the time a crime occurred are the ones that affect that crime.
It is worth noting that California’s statute of limitations law has recently changed and that any rapes involving a minor victim that took place after January 1, 2015 can be prosecuted up until the victim’s 40th birthday.
If you have been accused of rape or any other type of sexual assault, San Diego defense attorney Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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