New York Legislator Seeks to Create ‘Serial Sexual Assault’ Crime
In the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, one New York lawmaker is looking to find new ways to punish people who commit multiple sexually-based offenses.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, a Democrat from Sag Harbor, has introduced legislation that would create a new criminal offense called “serial sexual assault.” The law is designed to prevent suspected sex offenders from escaping prosecution for their crimes because the statute of limitations has expired.
The proposed law would define serial sexual assault as committing three or more acts of sexual assault against two or more victims. The statute of limitations would not begin to run until the most recent sexual assault has been committed.
The offense would be a Class B felony, punishable by up to nine years in prison for first time offenders. Those convicted of serial sexual assault would likely also have to register as sex offenders under the New York State Sex Offender Registration Act.
The bill was introduced to the General Assembly in early January and referred to the Senate’s Committee on Codes.
Statutes of Limitation in Sex Crime Cases
Currently, many sexually-based offenses cannot be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired.
A “statute of limitations” is a law that governs the time period during which a crime can be prosecuted. Once the statute of limitations expires, the state cannot prosecute someone for a crime, even if the state has evidence to prove that person is guilty.
In 2006, New York removed the statute of limitations for very serious sex crimes, including rape and aggravated sexual assault of a child. However, statutes of limitation cannot be made retroactive. Therefore, the state may still be unable to prosecute crimes that allegedly occurred prior to 2006.
Apart from the crimes exempted in the 2006 legislation, the general statute of limitations for New York sex crimes is five years. However, if the crime was committed against a minor, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim turns 18, meaning the alleged perpetrator can be prosecuted until the victim turns 23.
Some members of the New York State Assembly are working to lengthen the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors.
Sex crimes are very serious charges. In addition to prison time, someone convicted of a sexually-based offense could be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life. If you have been charged with a New York sex crime, you should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and advise you of all of your options.