For those of us who grew up with Fat Albert and The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby has been a father figure, humorist, and in some ways, a teacher. He has been outspoken on social issues like education, families, and personal responsibility. He has been especially critical of fathers who have abandoned their children, and young African American males adopting a “thuggish” lifestyle.

Bill Cosby has been accused by multiple women of rape.
Could the iconic Bill Cosby be charged with rape?

However, the past few weeks have seen a bizarre reversal of fortune for the 77-year-old Cosby. What started as a joke by comedian Hannibal Buress about Cosby’s alleged hypocrisy has spiraled into allegations that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted more than 20 women. The allegations go back as far as the mid-1960s, and include an allegation by supermodel Janice Dickenson.

This is not the first time the allegations against Cosby have been made public. The first allegations surfaced in 2004, but the accusations soon disappeared from the public’s consciousness as Cosby’s legal team settled civil suits against the entertainer, and threatened to sue the National Enquirer for defamation. It seems it took Buress’ performance to give them new life.

“Bill Cosby has the [expletive] smuggest old black man public persona that I hate,” Buress said. “’Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, bring it down a couple notches.” 1

So now the question is: If any of these allegations are true, could Bill Cosby be tried for rape when many of the alleged attacks happened more than 20 years ago?

Decades-Old Charges Still Viable?

Cosby’s accusers give accounts of attacks in multiple states, including Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and California, with many of them occurring between 1965 and 1990. In California, there are several potential legal consequences that could come from these accusations, but the legal battlefield is controlled by the statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is a legal rule that prohibits a criminal charge or a civil lawsuit from moving forward if the allegation is made too long after the incident occurs. The basic rule is California Penal Code section 801, which states a criminal rape prosecution must commence within 10 years of the alleged offense.

However, there are a couple of exceptions to that rule. First, Penal Code section 799 states that if the charge carries a potential life sentence, there is no statute of limitations, and the crime can be prosecuted at any time. In the case of rape, the crime has to be “aggravated” to carry a potential life sentence, meaning that the rape is conducted by force or violence (including threats against the victim’s loved ones), or fit a number of other possible conditions under Penal Code section 269.

The other exception is the rule regarding DNA identification of the rapist. Under Penal Code section 803, if a DNA test can conclusively prove the identity of a rapist, prosecution can take place within one year of the discovery, even if it occurs after the normal 10-year period has expired.

Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or someone you love has been accused of rape, you will need the help of an experienced and aggressive attorney, regardless of how far back the incident took place. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending people accused of sex crimes, and we are committed to helping guide you through the process. Let us help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [Brian Logan, “It Took a Comedian to Call Bill Cosby to Account, “ The Guardian, November 26, 2014, available at mailto:http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/nov/26/hannibal-buress-bill-cosby-comedy-taboo]

Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.