Senate unanimously passes Herbig bill to extend statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes
AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation from Sen. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, that would help Maine victims of sexual assault seek and achieve justice. LD 67, “An Act To Ensure Access to Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault,” would extend the current statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes.
“Maine’s current limitation on prosecuting sexual assault is one of the shortest in the nation,” said Sen. Herbig. “With increased and ongoing public discussions about the reality sexual assault victims face, we know the law we have right now just doesn’t make sense. I’m so glad my colleagues in the Senate stepped up to support this important measure.”
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 now heads to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills. The governor has 10 days to either sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.