Herbig presents bill to help victims of sexual assault, protect Maine communities
AUGUSTA — Legislation introduced Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, would help victims of sexual assault and protect Maine communities by extending the current statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes. LD 67, “An Act To Ensure Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault,” received a public hearing Wednesday before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
“Thanks to many courageous victims and survivors of sexual assault, we have a new awareness of how serious and pervasive this problem is,” said Sen. Herbig. “The problem touches every community in our state and impacts most Maine families in some way. ”
Under current law, perpetrators of felony-level sex crimes must be prosecuted within eight years of the crime. Only three other states in the country have shorter statutes of limitations. LD 67 would lengthen the statute of limitations for prosecution of Class A, B and C crimes involving unlawful sexual contact or gross sexual assault from eight years to 20 years. Due to constitutional constraints, this bill would not apply retroactively.
According to the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in five Mainers will experience sexual assault at some point in their lifetime. Each year, 14,000 Mainers will experience sexual violence. However, most of these crimes go unreported. In 2017 in Maine, only 448 instances of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault were reported to law enforcement. Additionally, lack of prosecution means serial offenders remain at large in Maine communities.
The bill faces further action in the committee and votes before the full Maine House and Senate.