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Statutes of limitations made it hard for comedian Bill Cosby’s accusers to take him to court over alleged sexual assault allegations.
The limitations are imposed by laws which create timed boundaries, after which criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits can no longer be pursued.
Statutes of limitations are common but controversial features of federal and state law. More than 40 states still have statutes of limitations that apply to some or all child sexual abuse crimes, and most states also apply limitations statutes to civil lawsuits.
Proponents of these laws argue that litigating a case based on events from the distant past runs the risk of lost evidence and faulty memories. Critics respond that these concerns can be adequately addressed without drawing arbitrary lines that shut victims out of court.
As recent allegations about predator priests are revealed, many of their victims might be looking for justice. But just like many women in the Cosby case, some of them might be precluded from filing cases.
In the era of #MeToo, should we do away with these regulations? If we do, what measures will ensure that defendants will get a fair trial?
Produced by Paige Osburn. Text by Gabrielle Healy.
- Nina Ginsberg Criminal defense attorney and co-chair, Sex Offender Policy Committee, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- Marci Hamilton Professor, University of Pennsylvania; CEO, Child USA; @Marci_Hamilton
- Daniel Hemel Assistant professor of law, University of Chicago; @DanielJHemel
- Representative Mark Rozzi Representative for Pennsylvania's 126st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives. @StateRepRozzi
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