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Committee approves bill to end statutes of limitations in sexual assault of minors

Victims under 18 can pursue sexual battery charges at any time, under the bill.

A Senate committee approved a bill Monday that would allow victims to come forward at any time to seek prosecutions in sexual assault cases they allege occurred back when they were minors.

Senate Bill 130, pushed by Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando, would eliminate statutes of limitations on such prosecutions, which requires reports to be presented to prosecuted sometime between three and eight years after the alleged assaults occurred, depending on the victim’s age and other factors.

“My bill simply removes this limitation and will allow those individuals to report sexual battery at any time,” Stewart told the committee Monday. “If a victim is younger than 18 years of age, a prosecution for the violation may be commenced at any time. This bill does not grandfather in individuals before the effective date of July 1, 2019.”

The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice approved the bill unanimously with no questions or debate from the panel.

When she introduced the bill, Stewart said she filed it in response to a case involving Donna Hedrick, a constituent in her Senate District 13 in Orange County, who was sexually abused as a 15-year old high school student and buried her secret for more than 40 years. She later learned that five more girls were also abused. The teacher was never prosecuted.

Stewart also cited the case of Palm Beach financier Jeffrey Epstein, the high-society financier who’s been the subject of investigations by the Miami Herald and other media and of a civil lawsuit regarding allegations that he sexually abused scores of underage girls. Epstein received a plea deal for a light sentence.

A companion bill, House Bill 395, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando, and has been assigned to that chamber’s Criminal Justice Subcommittee and other committees.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Larry Gillis

    February 11, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    The tradition of a Statute of Limitations on criminal offenses runs deep in American Jurisprudence. It should be set aside only for compelling reasons. Prosecutions for murder and treason typically have no time limitations. Virtually everything else has some time limit of some sort. However, a strong argument can be made that prosecutions for rape of juveniles should have no time limit, especially in consideration of the vulnerability of the victim and the coping that is attempted afterwards.

    In any case, such a bill should be passed only after consideration of all the consequences. An extended time period — say, 50 years — might reasonably address all concerns. Under a 50-year rule, an offense committed in March 1969 could still be prosecuted right now. (Imagine trying to defend yourself against any such 50-year-old allegation. Where were you in March 1969, if you even remember ?).

    For an interesting and informative article on the current state of Statutes of Limitation, see: https://www.expertlaw.com/library/criminal-statute-of-limitations

  2. Tim

    February 11, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Yeah. Tell me where you were 50 years ago on this date and this time. Its bullshit. Just more way to push guilty must be proven innocent.

  3. Molly

    February 11, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Prosecutors would still require something crucial to try these cases-evidence. This allows for prosecution beyond the years of the offense, but doesn’t change the burden of proof. Good on you, Linda Stewart!

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