Capitol Alert

No respite for rapists under California bill tied to Cosby case

Rape charges could be brought against alleged perpetrators no matter how much time has elapsed under a bill that passed the California Assembly on Thursday.

A cascade of allegations against Bill Cosby helped fuel the arguments for Senate Bill 813, with woman after woman coming forward to say the famous comedian had sexually abused them decades ago. Some testified in favor of the legislation earlier this year.

Current state law generally requires that charges be brought within 10 years of a sexual assault, although victims of sex crimes that occurred before their 18th birthday have until they turn 40.

Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and supporters have said allowing more time by extending those statutes of limitations would help bring justice. That argument resonated with lawmakers, who passed the bill on a bipartisan 70-0 vote. The measure will return to the Senate for final consideration.

“There are some crimes that are so heinous that there should never be a statute of limitations,” Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, said Thursday. “This is one of them. These crimes, regardless when they happen, should be punished.”

Public defenders and other opponents have warned that statutes of limitations exist for a reason, arguing that memories fade and that the consequences of false rape accusations can be catastrophic for the accused.

The allegations against Cosby aren’t the only high-profile sexual assault case to spur legislative action this year. After a Stanford student received a sentence widely condemned as too light, legislators introduced bills to tighten California’s mandatory penalties and to redefine rape.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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