The Senate Judiciary Committee have approved legislation that would repeal the statute of limitations for rape, aggravated rape, rape of a child and aggravated rape of a child, as long as law enforcement or the district attorney general has been notified within three years of the offense. Senate Bill 2084 also provides a certain degree of retroactivity for claims in which the statute of limitations has not expired.
The proposal pertains to acts committed on or after the bill’s July 1, 2014 effective date and offenses committed prior to that date, as long as the statute of limitations has not expired. The current statutes of limitations range from 8 years to 15 years for rape of an adult, and up to 25 years after the 18th birthday of the victim when the offense involves a child.
Amy Weirich, District Attorney General for the 30th Judicial District in Shelby County, who testified in favor of the legislation, told members of the Judiciary Committee that her office has already been using the legislative means given to them under a law passed by the General Assembly last year. Weirich said that her office used legislation to obtain a “John Doe” arrest warrant this week based on the perpetrator’s DNA profile, saving the case from dismissal on grounds that too much time has passed. That new law ensures that Tennessee law keeps pace with emerging DNA science so that prosecutions will be kept alive even when the perpetrator can’t be brought to justice within the time allowed by the statute of limitations.
Approximately 90,000 women are raped every year in the United States, with only 25% of these attacks resulting in arrests. Courts at all levels have recognized the validity of DNA tests in identifying suspects and establishing guilt.