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New Law Clarifies Absence of Time Limit for Prosecution of Rape and Sodomy

March 06, 2002
By: Javier Solano
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1037 and SB 650

JEFFERSON CITY - Victims of rape and sodomy in Missouri were assured Wednesday that prosecutors continue to have an unlimited amount of time to bring legal action against their assailants.

Gov. Bob Holden Wednesday signed into law both the House and Senate versions of a bill that clarifies the absence of a statute of limitations for rape, sodomy, attempted rape and attempted sodomy.

"Denying women, or any person who is the victim of these crimes, the protections available to others is a terrible injustice... an injustice that is now corrected," Holden said.

Prosecutors and legislators have assumed for years that the statute of limitations for these crimes was unlimited -- that charges could be filed any time after the crime.

However, in 2000, the Western District Court of Appeals held that the state's three-year "statute of limitations" that sets a deadline for filing charges applied to forceable rape and sodomy.

"Today with the signing of these bills, we send a clear message, a long overdue message, these atrocities will not be tolerated in our state, no matter how long ago they happened," Holden said.

The House version of the bill was sponsored by the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Ralph Monaco, D-Raytown. The emergency clause in the bill makes it applicable immediately upon the governor's signature. Monaco said fast-tracking the bill sent a clear a clear message to Missourians.

"I want to tell the women of Missouri it's a victory today for each and everyone of you," said Monaco. "I am sorry there was a problem in the law but today we cleaned up that problem."

The Senate version was the first bill introduced by Marvin Singleton, R-Seneca, who said this bill was a priority for the Senate.

"Certainly this bill is far too long in coming," Singleton said. "This is a tragedy that we had, and we needed to put it on the fast track to get it."

Some lawmakers said the issue simply was a technical clarification -- that the appeals court ruling applying the time limit to rape had not been affirmed by the state Supreme Court or held by the state's two other appeals courts.