STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON RAPE IS REPEALED (In another anticrime measure, more criminals now must provide DNA)

Victim's advocates are praising the state Legislature's recent enactment of two laws, one that lifts the statute of limitations on rape and another that expands the state's criminal DNA databank, evidence heavily relied upon for the conviction of sex offenders.  The passage of both was announced this week, although Governor George Pataki signed the two bills at the end of June.   The five-year statute of limitations on rape, a Class B felony, is 40 years old.  The lifting of this statute applies to the crimes of rape in the first degree, criminal sexual act (sodomy) in the first degree, aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree, course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree and predatory sexual assault against a child in the first degree.  

Our argument has always been that murder and treason have no statute of limitations, so why should rape? said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, a Stony Brook-based organization that fights for victims of child sexual abuse.  There will be absolutely no statute of limitations on these offenses, she said.   

Senator John Flanagan (R-East Northport), a cosponsor of both bills said, Previous laws allowed rapists to avoid prosecution by running from law enforcement.  This new law puts an end to that ludicrous practice.  Rape victims deserve our protection and our laws must reflect the idea that the victims are the ones whose rights are important.  Murderers are not able to escape justice and now rapists will not be allowed to either.  

Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell (D-New York), who voted in favor of the expansion of the DNA databank, was the sole dissenting vote on the bill to lift the statute of limitations on rape.  O'Donnell said that he thinks the law is driven by emotions, noting that the five-year statute of limitations on other B level felonies, such as armed robbery and assault, remains.  What we've done is, we've made a special exception for rape.  So, I was the lonely 'no' vote, he said.  

Ahearn strongly disagreed with O'Donnell's suggestion that rape is similar to other B level felonies and should have at least some statute of limitations.  I would say there absolutely has to be a special exception made for sexual offenses because sexual offenses have a lifelong and devastating impact upon the victim and the victims family for generations, she said.  When somebody commits a sexual act against a child or an adult, they take away something that can never be replaced and it's not anything that another crime can be compared to.  Ahearn said the argument for lifting the statute of limitations only if there is sufficient DNA evidence or rape is not the way the system is supposed to work.  That's not a decision that the legislature should be making, she said.  Leave the determinations of the efficacy of evidence to a jury.  It should be up to a jury, not up to the legislature to decide whether a case has enough evidence.  This is not an emotional decision.  It is allowing for justice to take place in our state.

(New York)