California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law Wednesday eliminating the statute of limitations in rape cases, in a move widely thought to be a response to the multiple decades-old sexual assault allegations leveled against comedian Bill Cosby.
Senate Bill 813 — introduced by State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) — amends several sections of the California penal code to allow legal action for the crimes of rape, child sex abuse and forced sodomy to be “commenced at any time.”
Previous state law allowed legal action to be taken only within 10 years of the date of the crime. The bill also ends the time limit on rape cases currently within the 10-year window.
“It shows victims and survivors that California stands behind them, that we see rape as a serious crime, that victims can come forward and that justice now has no time limit,” Leyva said in a statement after the law’s passage.
Critics, however, say that the law will be abused to harass defendants — some of them innocent — over allegations that will be difficult to prove, or to disprove.
The law — set to take effect January 1 — is thought to be a response to the multiple rape and sexual assault charges brought against comedian Bill Cosby, many of which could not be prosecuted due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
According to Reuters, Cosby is currently facing a civil lawsuit filed by a woman in her 50s who accused the comedian of molesting her at the Playboy Mansion in 1974, when she was 15 years old.
In May, a Pennsylvania judge ordered the 79-year-old comedian to stand trial for the alleged sexual assault of a woman in 2004.
Cosby was charged with three counts of felony indecent assault over accusations leveled by Andrea Constand, the first of dozens of women who have since accused the comedian of sexual assault and rape. Constand, a former Temple University basketball employee, told police that the comedian drugged and sexually abused her at his home in Cheltenham Township near Philadelphia.
In July, the New York Post’s Page Six reported that Cosby had gone “completely blind” and is confined to his Pennsylvania home.