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Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 1:25pm

Bill Would Nix Prosecution Limits

A state lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to remove the statute of limitations on child molestation and other sexual crimes committed against minors. The bill comes as news of child sexual abuse dominates national headlines.

Crimes cited in the bill include rape and enticing a child for indecent purposes.

The bill wouldn’t be retroactive but would apply to crimes committed after July 2012.

Prosecutors could charge suspects despite how much time had passed since the crime.

Rep. Ben Harbin of Evans, the bill’s sponsor, says the statute of limitations in these cases is short.

“The current law says seven years after the child has turned 16, and all we are doing is removing that," he said. "So if there’s a case where some child who was a victim has been abused or attacked and they waited until much later before coming forward, the person who committed these heinous crimes can still be prosecuted.”

That would be a key change, says Nancy Chandler with Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. That's because she says most child sexual abuse victims don’t reveal the incidents until adulthood. And she says, by then:

“They may be beginning to have problems and issues, go to a therapist and then for the first time they’re in a safe enough situation to talk about their abuse," she said. "But at that point the clock has ticked and there’s no way for them to back and seek any justice against their abusers.”

The problems with a statute of limitations are pertinent beyond Georgia. New York prosecutors say the statute of limitations won’t allow them to charge a former Syracuse University coach for alleged sex crimes.