By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
December 10, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) — Rapists can be prosecuted within eight years of the crime, but new legislation would nearly double the statute of limitations for future cases to 15 years.
Meg Baldwin runs Refuge House, a rape crisis center. She estimates 20 percent of the calls she receives are about cases 10 years or older.
“Those survivors will have a wider window to come to terms with what happened to them, to appreciate the impact of the attack on themselves as individuals and to make that big decision to come forward,” said Baldwin.
Representative Evan Jenne says the extension makes sense, given the capability of modern technology.
“With the advancements that we’ve had in DNA techniques, it doesn’t make sense not to, for me at least personally, not to push back the statue of limitations. Especially on an act as heinous and vile as a sexual assault,” said Jenne.
Lawmakers allocated more than $2 million in 2016 to help reduce a backlog of more than 8,600 rape kits. 1,316 rape kits remain untested, but the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has a goal of processing all of them by June of 2019.
To prevent future backlogs, the new legislation would require FDLE to track the status of rape kits. If the bill passes, FDLE would have until 2020 to implement the new tracking requirements.
“That’s a great next chapter to this story,” said Baldwin.
A second bill filed in the Senate would abolish any statute of limitations for sexual battery on persons under the age of 18. Currently, those protections are only guaranteed to victims under the age of 16.
The number of reported rapes jumped 3.8 percent in the first six months of this year.