California ends statute of limitations on rape, but it won't apply retroactively

Prompted by allegations made against celebrity Bill Cosby, California is ending its 10-year statute of limitations on rape.

Current California law requires prosecution for rape to begin within 10 years of the alleged offence, with some exceptions. Under the new legislation, SB813, there will be no time limit. The change will also apply to crimes for which the statute of limitations has not expired as of 1 January 2017.

Senator Connie Leyva, who introduced the bill, said it told victims of sexual assault that they could seek justice "regardless of when they are ready to come forward".

"Rapists should never be able to evade legal consequences simply because an arbitrary time limit has expired."

Historical cases (such as many of Cosby's victims) are not addressed in the bill, as it will not apply retroactively to crimes that reach the 10-year-limit before Jan 1, 2017. Which is to say, Dec 31, 2006 is the last date for crimes to escape the new legislation.

The U.S. has a patchwork of state-level sexual assault laws, with 43 applying a statute of limitations to rape. The lengths differ widely: Minnesota has the shortest, at 3 years, whereas Ohio's is 20 years.