After years of failed attempts, a bill that would provide criminal prosecutors more time to charge rapists and offer additional rights to their victims was passed by the New York Assembly this week; the Senate passed a similar bill earlier this year, reports Women’s eNews. The bill would eliminate New York’s five-year statute of limitations for prosecuting rape cases; only Utah, Florida, and North Dakota have statutes of limitations that are shorter than New York’s.
New York law categorizes first degree as a Class B felony. If prosecutors cannot indict someone within five years, they must drop the case–even if the perpetrator is conclusively identified by DNA or other evidence. The same statute does not apply to Class A felonies. “When you look at some of the other Class A felonies–arson and kidnapping in the first degree, and some drug crimes–can you really say that they are more serious than sexual assault?” said Lisa Friel, senior prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. “Even today, there is still a distrust of the woman who gets on the witness stand and says, ‘That man sexually assaulted me.’ Sexual assault is still seen as different from other crimes.” Nationwide, a trend to eliminate statutory limits on rape has been spurred by the introduction of DNA evidence. Sixteen states have either extended or repealed their limitations on rape prosecution in cases where there is DNA evidence; nine have eliminated them entirely.