Senate Passes Legislation Extending Statute Of Limitations In Criminal Cases

Hugh T. Farley

February 24, 2006

The New York State Senate recently passed several bills that would hold violent criminals accountable for their actions by closing a loophole that allows them to escape prosecution and punishment for their crimes after five years.

A bill proposed by the Governor (S.5342) would eliminate the statute of limitations period in criminal cases where the identity of the offender is subsequently established by means of DNA evidence. Under current law, rapists and other violent criminals can escape prosecution when charges are not formally brought up within five years. Presently, only prosecutions for murder and other violent class A felonies are exempt from the five-year statute of limitations.

The bill would also require offenders who are adjudicated as youthful offenders to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the State DNA Databank. Another provision would make it a crime when a designated offender fails to provide a DNA sample. These provisions recognize the value of the DNA Databank in helping to solve crimes.

In addition to the Governor's bill, the Senate considered two alternative approaches which would help ensure that justice is served. The Senate passed legislation (S.6524) that would eliminate the statute of limitations for certain violent felonies including rape and sexual violence against a child.

The Senate also passed Senate bill S.2214 that would eliminate the statute of limitations on class B violent felonies.

In addition, the Senate passed legislation (S.2852) that would ensure that when there is relevant DNA evidence available, the admissible evidence will be admitted and considered during trial. DNA technology has progressed to the point where the admissibility of properly collected and analyzed data should not be in doubt.

All of these bills were sent to the Assembly for consideration.