Two more proposals seek to eliminate rape statute of limitations in Ohio

Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain, Wikimedia Commons]

An Ohio House Democrat is adding two more proposals to the legislature’s list of bills seeking to remove the statute of limitations for rape from state law.

On Tuesday, state Rep. John Rogers, D-Mentor-On-The-Lake, introduced House Bill 470 and House Bill 472, with the goal of eliminating the 25-year limit on prosecution of rape cases.

The first bill also aims to extend the period in which a victim can file civil action for childhood sexual abuse, according to the language of the bills.

Rogers’ original motivation in drafting the bills was to address the civil litigation timeline for those suffering from sexual abuse as children. As a former prosecuting attorney, he recognized the long-lasting effect sexual abuse can have, a lifetime past when a statute of limitations expires.

“Often times it’s not until their late 50s, early 40s that they come to terms with this kind of thing,” Rogers said.

The legislation was initially set up as one bill, but Rogers decided to divide it into two, hoping separating the issues would help with passage.

“If we’re going to take incremental approaches to these things, and mine can move along, we’ll move it along,” Rogers said. “The bottom line is we have to do something to help these victims.”

The issue of rape’s statute of limitation has had bipartisan interest, particularly from Ohio attorneys general. In June, Attorney General Dave Yost and five former attorneys general said the crime of rape should be treated in the same way as murder when it comes to limitations of prosecution. Murder does not have a statute of limitations in Ohio.

The bills are the second and third to come before the current general assembly regarding the statute of limitations for rape.

House Bill 279 was introduced back in June by state Rep. Kristin Boggs, D-Columbus, and Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron. That bill, which has yet to receive a hearing in the Criminal Justice committee, proposes elimination of spousal exceptions for sex offenses along with the elimination of the statute of limitations.

A companion bill to HB 279, Senate Bill 162, was co-sponsored by state Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, and state Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta. It is sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee after receiving one hearing.

“I believe (Rogers’ bill) came out of that frustration, and I share that frustration of…why aren’t we in the legislature moving on common sense laws to bring the statutes into the 21st Century,” Antonio said.

Rogers said he would be glad to see HB 279 pass in lieu of his bills, but with the current layout of the legislature, he decided throwing another proposal in the ring couldn’t hurt.

“If anything, we keep the issue in the forefront of people’s minds,” Rogers said. “If it’s timeliness that’s prohibiting the prosecution of a rape case, I don’t think that should be right.”

Both bills now await referral to a House committee.