Bill seeks to extend statute of limitations for civil suits involving sex crimes against kids
Right now, in the state of Michigan, a victim of sexual abuse is unable to sue the perpetrator past the age of 19.
A bill that’s expected to be introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon will attempt to change that age limit.
Rep. Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing) said Tuesday he’s going to introduce a bill that may have special relevance to the Washtenaw County area after a number of sex crimes involving children in the last few months. The bill will seek to extend the statute of limitations for civil cases involving criminal sexual conduct against minors to age 28, instead of the current age limit of 19.
Courtesy of Mark Meadows
Meadows said one of the big reasons he decided to introduce this bill was the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University. He said five out of Sandusky’s eight accusers wouldn’t have been able to sue Sandusky in Michigan if the incident had happened here.
“I thought that was really an injustice,” Meadows said. “I felt like we could easily remedy that.”
The bill would only apply to victims of crimes that do not involve penetration, Meadows said. There is no statute of limitations for criminal or civil cases involving first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan.
At least one local representative has already signed up to be a co-sponsor on the bill.
Rep. David Rutledge (D-Superior Township) said the bill was “an important piece of legislation” and would bring the criminal and civil statute of limitations into harmony.
“If somebody is underage and not quite maturity age, sometimes a year is just not long enough,” Rutledge said. “Anything can get in the way of that.”
Rutledge said he’s been paying attention to news stories regarding sex crimes against children and those scandals brought this bill “closer to home, so to speak.” He said Meadows’ bill is a way for legislators to be able to improve things for children in a policy way.
“While my sensitivities are heightened, all of our sensitivities should be heightened to something that could bring harm to our most precious resources,” Rutledge said.
Rep. Rick Olson (R-York Township) said he wasn’t familiar with all the particulars of the bill but had partially reviewed it and believed it was something he would be able to support. Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) said he hadn’t had a chance to read the bill yet and didn’t want to offer comment until he had a chance to go over it.
Meadows said he’s still looking for co-sponsors on the bill before he introduces it to the legislature on Thursday afternoon. He said the response to the legislation has been almost unanimously supportive from other representatives who have spoke with him about it.
He said institutions that employ a person who was sexually abusing children and either knew or should have known could also be named as defendants under his bill. If an organization responds appropriately, it would be given protection under the bill, he said.
Meadows introduced a similar bill in 2011 calling for a lengthening of the statute of limitations on manslaughter, kidnapping, extortion, assault with intent to commit murder, attempted murder and first degree home invasion.
That bill came to be after the death of Brandon D’Annuzio, a visitor to East Lansing who was killed after falling onto a curb during an assault in 2000. Immediately after the statute of limitations ran out, someone came forward announcing they knew the perpetrator. No prosecution could be sought against the alleged killer, Meadows said.
“It was a real injustice,” Meadows said.