Action needed on limits on rape charges

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Missouri lawmakers are on target to spell out the provisions for charging someone with rape under Missouri law.

A 2000 ruling from the Missouri Court of Appeals' Western District indicates that someone must be charged within three years after the crime is committed.

As a result, perpetrators who aren't caught and charged during the 36 months after a rape will avoid prison time. Some prosecutors have been gathering DNA evidence and charging a John Doe so they can pursue cases once a match is made. This sometimes happens when suspects are picked up for other crimes.

The Missouri Legislature wants to make it clear that there is no statute of limitations on rape in this state. The crime should be just as punishable in five, 10, 20 or more years as the day it is committed.

Lawmakers would be wise to put such a provision on a crime that strips victims, at least temporarily, of their dignity and right to feel safe.

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