2006-07-14 / Community

Bill Eliminates Sex Crime Statute Of Limitations

Legislation that eliminates time limits for the prosecution of certain sex-related crimes and extends the statute of limitations for bringing civil actions against criminal offenders has been passed, according to a press release from State Senator Malcolm A. Smith.

"We sent a clear and powerful message to the men, women and children of New York: that justice has no expiration date," said Senator Smith. "Many victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse do not get their day in court, often because the statute of limitations had expired.

I am proud to join my colleagues in passing this bill, which ensures that no matter when such a heinous crime occurs, justice is infinite, it is patient, and access to it will be guaranteed."

Senator Smith applauded the three-way agreement between the Senate, the Assembly and the Governor, and congratulated legislative leaders for bringing the measure to the Senate floor.

"This is a huge step forward for the victims of sexual abuse who were courageous and eloquent in bringing their stories to the legislators and the public," he said. "I am very pleased that this measure, which has been on the negotiating table all session, will soon become law."

Unlike current law, which provided a five-year limitation period on the criminal prosecution of crimes such as rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act in the first degree, aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, and sexual conduct against a child in the first degree, the new measure leaves open the option of prosecuting sex-related crimes regardless of when those crimes occurred.

The bill also allows victims to pursue a civil claim against those who commit the same first-degree sex offense, extending the statute of limitations from one year after the commission of the sex act, to five years after the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

Victims whose right to pursue damages for their physical or mental injuries had previously expired would not be entitled to a new five-year window in which to seek relief in the civil justice system.

"Thanks to advances in science, DNA has become a progressive, crime-fighting tool," said Senator Smith. "A DNA sample left by a suspect at a modern-day crime scene can be traced back to a previous crime.

This legislation, combined with DNA technology, will give law enforcement the tools to pursue suspects and convictions for crimes that happened five, ten, even twenty years after the fact. That means the vicious predators who thought that they were in the clear thought wrong.

They can run, but they cannot hide, and when they are caught, they will literally and figuratively pay a heavy price for their crimes."

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