SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill eliminating California’s 10-year time limit for prosecutors to file rape and child molestation charges.
Brown made the announcement without comment Wednesday amid a nationwide debate sparked by sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby.
Beginning next year, the new law will end the statute of limitations in certain rape and child molestation cases. It will also end the time limit on older cases in which the statute of limitations has not yet expired.
The new law, SB813, will not, however, help women who made allegations against Cosby dating back more than 10 years.
Cosby has repeatedly denied the sex abuse allegations made by dozens of women nationwide. He is facing just one criminal case stemming from sex abuse. A trial is set to begin in June in Pennsylvania.
Civil rights groups and public defenders say the California bill could lead to false convictions as memories fade among victims and witnesses.
Seventeen other states already have no statute of limitations on rape, according to the California Women’s Law Center.
In June, Colorado doubled the amount of time sexual assault victims have to seek charges from 10 to 20 years, a decision also prompted by the Cosby allegations. Nevada extended its time limit from four to 20 years last year after testimony by one of Cosby’s accusers.
The new law “tells every rape and sexual assault victim in California that they matter and that, regardless of when they are ready to come forward, they will always have an opportunity to seek justice in a court of law,” California state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, said in a statement. “Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired. There must never be an expiration date on justice!”
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