UPDATE: Friday, March 1, 2013
State lawmakers want to make Kansas rape laws tougher. They voted unanimously this week to abolish the statute of limitations for prosecuting rape cases.
Currently, prosecutors cannot charge anybody with rape if five years have passed since the alleged attack took place. This week's action by the Kansas House and Senate will give them all the time they need to prosecute some of the worst personal crimes.
"Anything that assists law enforcement or is beneficial to the victims, we're going to be in favor of," said Wichita Police Lt. Randy Reynolds.
He is pleased with this week's votes in the legislature and says it will allow investigators to help more victims.
"A rapist may re-surface and we may not have solved the earlier crimes, but we do solve the latter crimes," Reynolds said. "Unfortunately, in those cases we can't go back and charge the ones that were past the statute of limitations."
If Gov. Sam Brownback signs bills approved 40-0 in the Senate and 123-0 in the House, there will no longer be a time limit on investigating and prosecuting these crimes.
"This will give people a longer amount of time to safety plan and do the things that they need to do so that they are safe in making that report," said Kathy Williams, Director of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center.
Williams said there are a number of reasons victims of rape may take time to come forward.
"We don't expect for people to hurt us in those kinds of ways," she said. "When it happens, then we don't know what else they're capable of. Will they come back? Will they hurt me again?"
Williams said the unanimous votes in Topeka send victims a message of community support. Reynolds agreed.
"It's very difficult to tell a victim, 'Sorry. We can't do anything for you because the statute of limitations has expired,'" he said.
The change in the law will not be retroactive, so it will not remove the statute of limitations from existing cases.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Kansas legislators appear likely to abolish the statute of limitations for prosecuting rape.
The House approved a bill on a 123-0 vote Friday, one day after the Senate approved its own legislation.
Each chamber's bill went to the other. The content of the two measures are identical.
Kansas is among 10 states now requiring a rape to be prosecuted within five years. Both bills would eliminate that limit.
Each measure also allows for prosecution of a sexually violent crime within 10 years if the victim is at least 18 years old.
For younger victims, prosecution would begin within one year of the date the suspect is identified through DNA testing, or within 10 years of the victim's 18th birthday, whichever is later.