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Cuomo Signs Bill Extending Statue Of Limitations

Law Will Cover Past Rape, Sexual Assault Incidents

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation (S.6574/A.8412) extending the statute of limitations to 20 years for second-degree rape and to 10 years for third-degree rape.

The law also extends the statute of limitations to 20 years for a criminal sexual act in the second degree and incest in the second degree, and to 10 years for a criminal sexual act in the third degree. This law also eliminates the statute of limitations for incest in the first degree and increases the time period in which victims can bring a civil suit for these offenses to 20 years. Prior to this new law, victims only had five years to bring a legal case alleging rape in the second degree or third degree or a criminal sexual act in the second degree or third degree. Altogether, this will provide victims greater opportunity to seek justice.

“What did the five years do?” Cuomo asked during a news conference to sign the legislation. “It protected the perpetrator. It allowed people immunity. It allowed them to go out and do it again and I believe it was part of a pattern, deliberate or indeliberate, where it was society’s way of covering up the problem. Why? Because society is very good at covering up these deep, chronic flaws that we don’t really want to see and come to grips with. Rape and sexual assault are much more common and frequent than we admit. Child abuse is much more common and frequent than we admit. Domestic violence is much more common and frequent than we admit. And I believe this system was designed in a way to protect society so they do not have to acknowledge this problem. That doesn’t work.”

While supporting the criminal statute of limitations extension, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voted against the legislation in the Assembly when it came to a vote because of its extension of the civil statute of limitations. He compared the 20-year statute of limitations with the statute of limitations for cases of negligence of three years, six years for contracts and 10 years for real estate transactions that come with deeds as well as notarized and acknowledged statements of record.

The reason for the longer statute of limitations on crimes where there is a defined record, according to Goodell, is because in cases where there is no hard evidence, no documentation, no video or no written agreement, the court case often comes down to the arguments made by a victim and a defendant. The negligence statute of limitations is particularly noteworthy, Goodell said, because A.8412 would make people or organizations liable for intentional or negligent acts or omissions that resulted in the sexual crime being committed.

“Two decades ago, where were you in 1999, in the summer of 1999, and what did you negligently forget to do?” Goodell asked. “This would open you up to this type of lawsuit. I can’t support this type of unlimited extension of a statute of limitations that would apply to third parties based on negligence, which would otherwise have a three year statute of limitations.”

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, D-New York City, said the statute of limitations on sex crimes is a difficult issue to address.

“If you hang around here long enough all issues will be addressed from three different ways by three different people who take three different positions,” O’Donnell said.

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