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Proposed New Jersey Bill Would Eliminate Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse Cases

A proposed change in New Jersey sex crime laws may affect both victims and possible defendants. State legislators are proposing to change New Jersey's sex abuse to eliminate the statute of limitations. The passage of time no longer protects alleged offenders or prohibits victims from reporting the crime.

The impetus for this change came about as a result of a Philadelphia Inquirer story about several women who say they were abused by an Inquirer sports columnist in the 1970s. Because the statute of limitations had expired, the women were unable to bring a civil action, nor were prosecutors able to bring criminal charges. The proposed new law will change that.

Since 1996, New Jersey laws removed the statute of limitations for any chlld sex crime that occurred after have allowed prosecutions and civil actions for crimes that occurred after the effective date of the law to take place at any time, and the statute of limitations was removed. However, the law was not retroactive, which meant that someone whose crime was allegedly committed before that date could not be prosecuted. Moreover, the 1996 law did not apply to civil actions. The proposed new law will change this.

The proposed law will also change the statute of limitations that prevents victims from sung someone who allowed abuse to occur. The bill increases the amount of time available seven years.

Victims of sex abuse often repress their experiences, and they often do not come forward for many years. This law would allow them to take action for crimes committed before 1996. However, allowing alleged victims to come forward at any time after a sex crime may result in more false prosecutions, as victims' may forget details to the extent that a conviction is not possible.

Source: Courier-Post Online, "Remove limits on suits against abusers," Mar. 15, 2012.

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