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Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill eliminating the state's statute of limitations for sex-related crimes on Wednesday.
California has eliminated its statute of limitations for rape and other sexual-assault charges—in a major change to its criminal code.
The measure, proposed by State Senator Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino, eliminated the state’s 10-year window on prosecuting a broad set of sex-related crimes. Governor Jerry Brown signed the measure into law Wednesday alongside dozens of other bills.
“[Brown’s] signature of SB 813 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,” Leyva said in a statement. “Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired.”
SB 813, along with similar bills proposed in other states, emerged after more than 50 women accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them over a four-decade period. Cosby has repeatedly denied any criminal wrongdoing.
Because most of the allegations only became public decades after Cosby’s alleged crimes, state laws prevented criminal charges against him in most jurisdictions. The Hollywood Reporter has more:
Cosby has repeatedly denied the sexual 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.
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.
Despite his role inspiring California’s legislation, the changes won’t affect Cosby himself. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2017, and does not apply retroactively.
Matt Ford is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where this article was originally published.
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