Bill Cosby & the Statute of Limitations on Rape

The number of women who have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and then raping them now stands at 41. The sheer weight of that number that has led to the vilification of Cosby in the media has made the public outcry even louder because many believe he will never be tried in court for these alleged crimes.

It is true that Cosby may be immune from prosecution because the statute of limitations on many of these cases has already expired. According to a recent OpEd News article, most of the alleged rapes occurred in six states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania. Each state has various term statutes of limitations for rape, but none stretch past the two or three decade mark, which is when most of these incidents allegedly occurred.

However, several of the rapes also took place in Michigan and New York City, which do not have statutes of limitations for rape under certain circumstances.

In Michigan, there is no statute of limitations for a first degree felony rape charge, which is defined by that state’s law as “a sexual act involving penetration” with a condition that the victim is incapacitated at the time of the act. In a 2005 deposition in another case, Cosby admitted to drugging one woman and obtaining drugs to give to other women before initiating sex. Many of the alleged victims claim that Cosby drugged them prior to sexually assaulting them.

In 2008, New York City lifted its statute of limitations for rape, which is a Class A felony. Anyone suspected of statutory rape may be charged with that crime during his or her lifetime in New York City.

So, at least in theory, there may well be some venues where Cosby can be charged of a rape crime and tried in a court of law. What is more likely is that additional states will reconsider any statute of limitations on rape as a result of the Cosby allegations. Studies have shown that rape is vastly under-reported in the U.S. because victims are often met with indifference and do not believe they will get justice.

Currently, 16 states have no statute of limitations for rape or sexual assault. Another seven states suspend the statute of limitations if a DNA match is found. In Texas, the statute of limitations for sexual assault is 10 years unless a DNA match is found — in the case of a DNA match, the statute of limitations is waived.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or