The statute of limitations bars prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges against defendants for very old crimes. A statute of limitations is necessary for many reasons. People should not be forced to spend their lives worried about being accused of wrongful behavior from decades ago. As time passes, people’s memories also become faded. This can make it much more difficult for a person accused of wrongdoing to mount an effective defense against accusations being made against him.
Despite the importance of a reasonable statute of limitations, states are moving forward with lengthening the time that authorities have to press charges for sexual assault cases. Just this past summer, the state of Nevada significantly lengthened the period of time a prosecutor has to bring charges for rape and sexual assault offenses. A defendant who faces criminal charges for past offenses needs to speak with an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense firm to understand what their options are and to build an effective defense to serious charges.
Nevada Extends Statute of Limitations for Rape Cases
In May, Nevada governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill into law that significantly extended the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases within the state. Prosectors were previously required to bring charges for rapes within a four year period from the time the alleged offense occurred. Under the newly-signed bill, the length of time that a prosecutor had to bring charges was extended to 20 years.
This obviously puts many more people at risk of facing criminal charges based on accusations from events that are long past. Because sexual assault cases often rely on he-said/she-said testimony, it also imposes a significant burden on defendants who may be charged with illegal behavior from things that happened decades ago that they no longer remember.
The change to the Nevada law was prompted, in part, by aggressive advocacy and lobbying by women who claim they were raped by actor Bill Cosby. Lisa-Lotte Lublin claims she was raped by Cosby in Las Vegas in 1989. After hearing news reports about many other women coming forward, she reported the incident to the police. However, she reports being devastated to find out that law enforcement and prosecutors could do nothing about her accusations because the statute of limitations had long passed. She urged the Nevada legislature to make a change to the law to allow for a longer period of prosecution. A bill extending the statute of limitations subsequently passed both the State Senate and the State Assembly unanimously.
Nevada is not the only state that has moved to extend the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault crimes. The governor of Indiana also signed a bill into law making it possible for rape cases to be prosecuted after the five year statute of limitations in case new evidence comes to light, and bills to extend the statute of limitations have also been moving through the legislative process in Florida, Ohio, and Oregon.
It is difficult for politicians to vote against bills making it possible to prosecute more people accused of rape, because of the political climate and public attitudes demanding that lawmakers are tough on those who commit sexual assault offenses. However, it is also important to remember that defendants have legal rights as well. Forcing people to defend against criminal charges from events that happened many years ago puts them in a very difficult situation and can make it hard for justice to be done.
Defendants who are charged with sexual assault offenses always need to get skillful legal representation because prosecutors are very aggressive in going after alleged rapists. If you have been accused of committing a sex crime, whether the accusations stem from a recent incident or from events long ago, you need to get legal help defending your reputation and your freedom. Contact a Las Vegas criminal defense firm for assistance responding to charges.