The “Justice for Victims Act” would allow the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes such as rape and continuous sexual abuse of a child, regardless of how long ago the crime occurred.
Current law limits prosecution of a felony sexual offense to 10 years after it is committed.
Sen. Connie Leyva, who introduced the bill, along with sexual assault victims and advocates urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill during a press conference at the State Capitol Tuesday.
Norma Hernandez says she was raped when she was 13 years old, which resulted in the birth of her son. She says many years passed before she contacted law enforcement.
“The police and the prosecutor told me, though I had enough DNA evidence there was nothing they could do because I didn’t come forward sooner,” Hernandez says.
The new law would apply to sex crimes occurring after Jan. 1, 2017.
Opponents of the bill say evidence and testimony decades after the alleged sexual crime are not always reliable.
Natasha Minsker is director of ACLU of California’s Center for Advocacy and Policy. She says eliminating the statute of limitations increases the risk of innocent people being convicted.
“When we pursue criminal prosecutions decades later evidence is lost, memories have faded and it becomes very hard for an innocent person to prove that they are innocent,” Minsker says.
Gov. Brown has until the end of the month to the sign the bill.