With more than 30 women accusing Bill Cosby of rape and/or sexual assault, you may be wondering why the veteran comedian has not been arrested or whether he will be bankrupted by having to defend all those lawsuits. 1 It’s not because he is rich, famous or that the law somehow does not apply to him, but rather it’s because of something called a statute of limitations.
Statute of Limitations in California
A statute of limitation is a law that requires the judicial system to bring criminal charges, or a lawsuit if it is a civil matter, within a certain period of time. If that period of time has passed, the defendant cannot ever be charged with that crime or sued in court. Typically, the clock for the statute of limitations begins when the crime is committed. 2
This time extension was adopted so that victims are not without a remedy where they’ve repressed the sexual assault against them and had no recollection of assault ever taking place. 3
For criminal sexual assault against an adult, the statute of limitations is typically six years from the date of the incident, unless it amounts to an aggravated rape (rape committed with the use of a weapon, against multiple victims, or causing serious injury), in which case there is no statute of limitations.
Another exception exists that allows the state to file charges within one year of discovering a DNA match. 4
For sexual assault against a minor, California law allows for alleged perpetrators to be prosecuted within one year of reporting the crime, regardless of when the alleged incident occurred.
Why is the LAPD Investigating Cosby’s Past Rape?
Although the state is unable to file charges against Cosby, a police investigation may still prove to be fruitful. For one, by investigating past claims, the police may still be able to uncover other incidents potentially involving a minor.
Moreover, California law allows alleged victims to testify in other cases if their claim is barred by statute of limitations. 5 If the LAPD investigation uncovers more recent incidents of sexual assault, these past alleged victims could testify against him.
It is possible that police could uncover evidence that would invoke the DNA exception. Suppose Cosby did commit the acts his accusers say he did. If these accusations are true, and for example police discovered one of his alleged victims had a child, the results of a paternity test could be used to establish DNA evidence. Such a result could allow the state to file charges despite the expiration of the statute of limitations.
By continuing the investigation, the police may also be able to uncover other incidents occurring in other states with a more prosecution-friendly statute of limitations. For example, North Carolina has no statute of limitation for rape and sexual assault crimes. 6
Impact on Future Cases
It is certainly a possibility that even if Cosby did commit the acts he is accused of, he may never be held criminally responsible. If that ultimately is the case, but it becomes clear that he did in fact assault one of those women, then it may cause lawmakers to change the law.
It is worth noting that the policy behind extending the statute of limitations in child molestation cases for repressed occurrences and the “discovery rule” could apply in cases where victims was drugged and then raped. Where victims are given powerful drugs, such as Rufinol or GHB, it is certainly reasonable to think that victims may not have any conscious recollection of being raped. But therapy could help victims piece it back together and make a discovery years later. Therefore, it is possible that could lead to new legislation.
Call the Rape Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you or a loved one has been charged with rape or sexual assault, you need to contact an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately. Wallin & Klarich has been successfully defending clients facing rape charges for over 30 years. We will meet with you immediately to review the facts of your case, and plan a defense strategy that will help you get the very best outcome possible.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich rape attorney available to help 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 be there when you call.