Cosby Case and Changes in California’s Sex Crimes Law

Bill Cosby has been in the headlines frequently over the last few months, but his talents as an actor and comedian have not been the subject of news report. You are probably aware that he is facing charges in Pennsylvania for sex crimes, and a number of other women have alleged that they were also assaulted decades ago by the comedian. However, Cosby won’t be prosecuted for many of the claims because the time limit for bringing charges expired under the “statute of limitations.” The matter has prompted lawmakers in California to make a change to existing law, according to an article published in the LA Times. If passed, there would be no statute of limitations on sex crimes, which has significant implications for anyone charged with such offenses.

Definition of a Statute of Limitations: In a criminal case, the statute of limitations refers to the length of time a California prosecutor has to file charges against you. After that time expires, prosecuting attorneys cannot charge you with a crime.

How the Time Limitation Runs: The “clock” on the statute of limitations begins to run once your crime is discovered – or should have been discovered by authorities. There may be arguments between prosecuting attorneys and your criminal defense lawyer when a crime takes place over a series of days or months. For example, in the Cosby case, it’s possible that sexual harassment occurred over several occasions. Typically, the statute of limitations would start when the first incident occurred, though the perception of the victim would be relevant.

Also, it’s important to note that the statute of limitations runs only when you are present within the borders of California. The time period would be paused for any time that you’re out of state, so the statute of limitations might be longer than two years if you were gone for three months during that time.

Intent of Statutes of Limitations: The primary reason for enacting statute of limitations laws is that it would be unfair to a criminal defendant to delay the trial process. A delay by prosecutor can be prejudicial because evidence that you may use to defend yourself can be compromised or destroyed over the time since the incident.

Current Statute of Limitations Laws in California: The statute of limitations in California depends on whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor; the type of felony is also an issue. There is no statute of limitations for murder and offenses that carry a death sentence or life imprisonment. This means that, regardless of when the crime is discovered, charges can still be brought against you. For other felonies, the statutory time ranges from three to six years. Lawmakers in California are weighing whether to include sex crimes within the category of offenses where there is no statute of limitations, so a criminal case may be initiated at any time.

Regardless of the outcome of the change in California’s statute of limitations in rape cases, you need a qualified lawyer on your side if you are charged with a sex crime. An attorney with a strong legal background in these types of cases will fight for your rights and present all available defenses under the law. Please contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in San Diego who can help you through the process and get the best possible result.

Ozols Law Firm
8880 Rio San Diego Dr. #22
San Diego, CA, 92108