Assembly Announces Legislation Eliminating Statute of Limitations
Lawmakers Set to Advance Measure Making It Easier For Rape Victims
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol, Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein and Assemblymembers Amy Paulin and Patricia Eddington today announced at a Capitol news conference that the Assembly will act on legislation to eliminate both the criminal and civil statute of limitations on Class B felony sex crimes.
Also joining with Silver and members of the Assembly Majority at a Capitol news conference in support of the legislation was Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
Assembly bill 11283 would extend the authority to prosecute and to bring civil action for a range of sexual crimes. Under current law, once the current statute of limitations has expired, sexual assault victims are prohibited from seeking legal recourse. The bill would become effective upon being signed into law. Its provisions would apply to crimes committed before the effective date as long as the current statute of limitations had not expired.
"Rape and sexual assault are heinous crimes that forever affect survivors. Many survivors are so traumatized that they cannot immediately report their crimes. This legislation seeks to leave the window of opportunity open for any victim to seek justice in a time frame that is dictated by their needs and not an arbitrary timetable set by the criminal justice system," said Silver (D-Manhattan).
"Elimination of the Statute of Limitations for these most serious sex crimes will afford an important opportunity for these victims to obtain justice. Today's announcement is a historic development and I look forward to seeing this legislation signed into law," said Morgenthau.
Provisions of the bill would provide rape victims with an important opportunity to seek justice in rape cases. The bill would apply to Class B felony sex crimes: first degree rape, first degree criminal sexual act (formerly called sodomy), first degree aggravated sexual abuse and first degree course of sexual conduct against a child.
"The current statute of limitations fails to recognize the nature of this horrific crime. This long-needed change will provide justice to victims whose voices have been silenced by the statute of limitations on rape," said Weinstein (D-Brooklyn).
"The elimination of the statute of limitations for rape is a victory for all women in New York State. The act of rape is such a heinous crime that it leaves a permanent imprint on victims. 1 in 6 American women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. It is an epidemic that must be stopped and the Assembly is taking important steps towards attacking this epidemic by eliminating the statute of limitations to give victims the opportunity for justice forever," said Paulin (D-Scarsdale).
"We are delighted that the Assembly is taking action to eliminate the statute of limitations in rape cases. Rape is a crime that can change lives forever. No one should get away with rape simply because time has passed," said Sonia Ossorio, president, National Organization for Women, New York City Chapter.
The lawmakers noted that earlier this session the Assembly had approved legislation imposing mandatory life maximum sentences for the most serious sex crimes, civil commitment to ensure the most dangerous predators could be confined even after their prison sentences, and a range of other measures to empower and assist survivors and closely monitor those convicted of sex offenses should they be released after serving new tougher sentences.
Call for Conference Committee to Resolve Assembly, Senate Bills
Lentol called for the formation of a conference committee to resolve differences between the Assembly proposal, which would eliminate both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations and a more narrow Senate proposal (S-6524, sponsored by Senator Dean Skelos) which would only eliminate the criminal statute of limitations in such cases. Lentol noted that the Assembly, earlier this year, had passed a number of additional bills to eliminate the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases, which had not yet been acted on by the Senate, including bills to eliminate the statute of limitations in cases involving DNA and bills to eliminate the statute of limitations in cases of aggravated rape or child rape.
"It is important that the Senate and the Assembly work together in a bipartisan way to enact an effective law to protect sexual assault survivors this session," Lentol said. "An open, public conference committee is the best way to achieve that goal."
"Rape is a terrible crime of hatred and power over those who are vulnerable. There's a lifelong impact on the victims of sex predators, and simply no reason for victims to be limited in their ability to bring their attackers to justice," said Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington (WF/D- Medford), president of the Legislative Women's Caucus) "We need to send a message to rapists that they no longer get a free pass just because of passage of time. With this legislation, we are empowering our women and children."
The lawmakers noted that over the past decade, New York has significantly strengthened the laws that punish sex offenders and other violent criminals and has enacted measures bolstering the control and supervision of offenders after longer prison terms are completed. Among the new laws are statutes that provide life sentences for certain twice-convicted child sex offenders, increase penalties for statutory rape, create a new "date rape" statute that makes proving rape significantly easier and enhance the state's Sex Offender Registration Act, known as "Megan's Law."
"The Assembly Majority has worked in a bipartisan manner to enact what Governor Pataki has called 'the toughest crime laws in the country'. The legislation we are putting forward today continues the historic steps this state has taken. However, it is clear that more needs to be done," said Silver.
New York State Assembly
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