Portsmouth Herald: Fuller Clark calls to end NH statute of limitations for sex offenses

A six-year statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault cases is both arbitrary and, in age of DNA evidence that remains viable for decades, simply unfair. This will provide prosecutors one more tool to bring violent sexual offenders to justice and reduce the prevalence of these horrible crimes.

Fuller Clark calls to end NH statute of limitations for sex offenses

Posted Sep 15, 2016 at 9:50 AM
PORTSMOUTH — State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark announced Thursday one her first legislative initiatives of the coming session is a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for most sexual offenses in New Hampshire.

The current statute of limitations makes it impossible to bring charges in most sexual offense cases after six years, Fuller Clark said, adding her legislation would remove those limitations for most sexual-assault crimes.

“Closing the window on prosecutions at six years seems arbitrary and, frankly, nonsensical, especially in an era when DNA and other scientific advances extend the useful life of evidence, including the rape kits our Legislature has recently acted to safeguard,” Fuller Clark said. “Our society has realized that the damage done by rape never truly goes away and this bill will give prosecutors the chance to prosecute winnable cases regardless of how long since the crimes were committed and provide victims the necessary cloture they deserve.”

The Portsmouth legislator said California is among a number of states recently ending the statute of limitations in such cases with legislation that passed in their senate without opposition.

“Attention to the arbitrary nature of short statutes of limitations, including New Hampshire’s six-year limit, has recently received much greater public attention as a result of claims leveled against Bill Cosby for rape and sexual assault going back 40 years,” she said. “A number of Cosby’s alleged victims have come forward, in the wake of others speaking out, only to find themselves without legal recourse.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, only two in 100 rapists will be convicted of a felony and spend any time in prison, Fuller Clark said. The other 98 percent will never be punished for their crime. The senator cited Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, from Department of Justice publications in 2009.

“Over my lifetime, I have seen American society come to realize just how horrific crimes like rape and sexual assaults are,” Fuller Clark said. “Armed with the ability to bring cases long after the six-year limit, I am confident that prosecutors in our state will be able to put more rapists behind bars and to stop sexual offenders, who are routinely discovered to be serial offenders, before they can reoffend. This means fewer rapes, fewer women — and men — being victimized, and fewer New Hampshire lives shattered by sexual violence.”

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