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Michigan extends statute of limitations on sex assault cases

Joined by sexual assault survivors in the state Capitol, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley this past week signed landmark legislation allowing victims more time to file both criminal and civil complaints in Michigan.

“Sexual assault is a heinous crime, and we have been working hard to strengthen our laws to help protect against it while ensuring survivors have more time to seek justice,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. “This legislation is an important step forward, but there is still more work to do. I appreciate the voices of those who have taken a leadership role to support survivors throughout our state. I hope that today’s action and the work to come will help prevent these crimes and continue to change the culture surrounding sexual assault in Michigan.”

Senate Bills 871 and 872, sponsored by state Sens. Margaret O’Brien and David Knezek, respectively, extend the timeline in both criminal and civil complaints in sexual assault cases in Michigan. Under this legislation, if the victim is under 18 years old at the time of the crime, a criminal indictment can now be filed within 15 years or by the survivor’s 28th birthday, whichever occurs later.  The bills also specify that criminal proceedings do not need to be brought for civil action to be filed and that civil action must be brought before the survivor is 28 years old or three years after the victim discovers that they had been a victim of sexual assault.

“Too many children are sexually abused. This legislation is an important first step in eradicating sexual abuse and assault,” O’Brien said. “I am grateful for the sister survivors who gave their names and faces to advance good public policy.”

Outside of the statute of limitations, the bills also allow all victims of sexual assault after Dec. 31, 1996 the opportunity to file civil charges if the defendant was in a position of authority over the victim or engaged in unethical or unacceptable medical treatment of a victim. This action would need to be filed within 90 days after this law takes effect.

The legislation was championed by a coalition of sexual assault survivors, led by Rachael Denhollander.

“I am grateful today for the leadership of many in the Senate, and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who fought tirelessly for what was right, and stood against political pressure for the cause of justice,” Denhollander said. “My greatest hope is that this is only the first step in much-needed legislative reform.”

The bills are now Public Acts 180 and 181 of 2018.

Article V Section 26 of the Michigan Constitution gives authority to the lieutenant governor to sign legislation when the governor is out of state.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, resources are available at theState of Michigan’s online resource guide or by calling the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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