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Measure would end statute of limitations for rape

The statute of limitations for many serious crimes in Georgia is 7 years. For rape, it’s 15 years unless there’s DNA evidence.

ATLANTA — Some state lawmakers want to lift the statute of limitations on major sex crimes. The bill would treat crimes like rape and aggravated sexual battery like murder – with prosecutions that could take place indefinitely after the crime is committed. 

The statute of limitations for many serious crimes in Georgia is seven years. For rape, it’s 15 years unless there’s DNA evidence. 

Advocates said rape cases can linger in evidence rooms where DNA is often stored for years – and in the consciousness of victims like Nicole Ebbeskotte Dallape - who was raped in 1999. She spoke about it publicly this week.  

Cobb County investigators said this week they solved her rape case and two others within a three mile radius of her attack by linking them to the DNA of an Arkansas man named Lorinzo Novoa Williams – 21 years after the crime.

"It was finally that I knew, I could close a chapter to my life," Williams told 11Alive News.

READ: New technology helps solve 1999 serial-rapist case; suspect found dead after DNA collected

A bill in the Georgia legislature, SB 287,  would make rape, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated sodomy prosecutable at any time, with no statute limiting the time between the crime and the prosecution.   

"The statute of limitations is very arbitrary," said Ann Burdges, the president of End Violence Against Woman International.  "We have to give some space and time to the reporting of sexual assault to allow there to be an adequate effective systems response," she told 11Alive.

The bill sponsor, state Sen. Harold Jones (D-Augusta), said the bill would make Georgia part of a growing national trend to end statutes of limitations on felony sexual assault cases.

READ: Accused serial rapist tied to ninth victim, attacked this year

According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, only a half dozen states have no statute of limitations for felony sex crimes.

But another two-thirds of the states – including Georgia – have exceptions to those statutes if the case is based on DNA evidence.

Last year, Georgia enacted a law requiring the storage of rape kits for up to 50 years. Rape kits are used to gather and store DNA evidence from sexual assault victims.

"I think (the bill) is a logical extension of that," Burdges said.  "We owe it to the victims."

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