New York's Rape Statute Challenged
Thursday, June 1, 2006 10:50 AM

The New York Assembly has passed a bill that would reform the current system of rape prosecution in the state. New York currently has a five-year statute of limitations for rape prosecution, one of the shortest in the country. According to this 40-year old statute, prosecutors must drop a rape case if they cannot indict the perpetrator within five years of the crime. The proposed law would eliminate the five-year time frame for prosecution so that rape cases could be tried at any time following the crime.

A push to eliminate statutory limits for rape has been taking place throughout the United States, propelled in large part by the introduction and efficacy of DNA evidence in rape cases. In cases where the rapist is a stranger to the victim, DNA evidence is often obtained and then matched to the rape years later because the perpetrator becomes involved in another criminal investigation. Due to New York’s five-year statute of limitations, many such cases have been unable to be prosecuted  leading to criticism of the the statute has been as outdated. Several states have already extended the prosecutorial limitations in rape cases where DNA evidence can be used and others have abolished them entirely.

A similar bill was passed in the New York Senate in February of this year, although the bills differ as to whether the limitations should remain in place for civil cases. The Senate bill calls for the statute’s repeal only in criminal cases whereas the Assembly bill eliminates the time frame that dictates when victims may sue their assailants for damages as well. 

Compiled from: Elizabeth Dwoskin,  "New York's Rape Statute Challenged as 'Archaic,'" Women's eNews, 19 May 2006.