Several women have accused entertainer Bill Cosby of rape. The victims who have come forward with rape charges allege criminal sex acts that were in past years. Florida’s statutes of limitations rules set a framework for what acts are time-barred and those that are not. What rules of law would apply if Bill Cosby were charged and arrested for sexual battery in Florida?
Sexual offense categories and sentences, vary with the ages of those involved. Florida’s sexual battery crimes have different levels of culpability, which depend not only on the age of the victim, but the age of the perpetrator. Florida enhances penalties for sexual batteries by those in positions of trust such as parents and teachers. In Bill Cosby’s situation the lapse of time between the date of the act and the involvement of prosecutorial agencies would quite likely bar a prosecution in Florida. Sexual Battery is a subject in the news because of its social and political implications: none of this is missed in the Bill Cosby matter. What has been reported as a delay in bringing the allegations forward is also being reported as the very human delay between a violation and the victimization of an individual and a plea for help.
At the time of the posting of this blog, none of the accusers allege that the sexual batteries (rapes) were committed in Florida. Each state has its own set of laws concerning statute of limitations and rape. Depending on which state seeks to arrest and prosecute Bill Cosby, their individual state laws would govern the prosecution. Statues of limitations do not “repose” or end prosecutions when the accused fled the jurisdiction of the courts and hid from detection. The statute of limitations would also be tolled if the facts of the case could not have been discovered by the State due to efforts by the perpetrator to hide or obscure the detection of relevant facts.
Bill Cosby’s accusers have received great and widespread public support in their attempts to bring Bill Cosby before a criminal court for prosecution. Depending on the individual facts of each case and relevant State laws, prosecutors will explore and decide on where and if to bring criminal charges of rape against Bill Cosby. Since some of the accusations go back a significant numbers of years, some of them are from acts alleged to have occurred twenty-five years or more in the past, an issue may be whether prosecutors can proceed on the current laws, or must prosecute under the laws as they existed at the time of the alleged sex acts. This gets into the area of constitutional laws as some modifications that have been made by legislatures to sex crimes involve constitutional rights and other modifications have no constitutional implications. It will be for local prosecutors in the State’s in which the allegations arose to decide to bring criminal charges.