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PRESS: Bill to Change Statute of Limitations for Rape, Sexual Assault Passes

May 22, 2015

Bill to Change Statute of Limitations for Rape, Sexual Assault Passes

Rep Ann Williams with the Cook State’s Attorney’s Office Increase Chargeable Offenses

CHICAGO-- Yesterday, Rep. Ann Williams (D) of Chicago, with the support of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, passed HB1418 to extend the statute of limitations for serious crimes that are committed during a sexual assault.

This legislation, which now awaits the Governor’s signature, aims to fully prosecute rapists who commit multiple serious felonies in the course of a sex offense.

Under current law, there are generally two varying statutes of limitations -- an extended ten year statute of limitations, or in some instances an indefinite statute of limitations where new DNA or evidence is discovered, for felony sex offenses. A three year statute of limitations exists to prosecute most other major felonies. The differing standards created an issue in long-term or otherwise dormant sex crime investigations, where detectives discovered new evidence or finally tracked down their offender after three years had lapsed. Prosecutors were able to move forward with a sexual assault or other serious sex offense charge, but were unable to also charge other crimes against the offender that were warranted, simply because the shorter three year statute of limitations period had tolled.

HB 1418 would allow the extended statute of limitations for felony sex offenses to also to match that of a felony sex offense for a select group of major felonies, if those felonies are committed during the commission of the underlying sex offense. The legislation specifically targeted accompanying crimes that are often used by violent, serial rapists in order to carry out a sexual assault, such as armed robbery, home invasion, kidnapping, and aggravated kidnapping.

Alvarez said the bill is necessary because when the included crimes are committed during a major sex crime, the offender is usually a stranger to his victim, and possibly a serial rapist. This increases the likelihood that he will avoid identification longer than in cases of date or acquaintance rape.

“Expanding the amount of time prosecutors have to pursue convictions against these types of offenders is long overdue and will help to ensure that we prosecute rapists to the fullest extent of the law," Alvarez said. "The CCSAO is very proud to have played a role in this important legislative enhancement on behalf of the victims of sexual assault."

The bill was sponsored by Mike Hastings in the Senate, where it received unanimous support.

“This bill is an important step in protecting victims and our community as a whole from dangerous sexual criminals,” Rep Ann Williams. “I am proud to have sponsored the legislation and I urge the Governor to sign this bill.”

The bill also received strong support in the House.