State Politics

Florida lawmakers extend statute of limitations on rape cases

Lawmakers have voted to extend to six years the statute of limitations for rapes to be reported and prosecuted.

Dubbed the 43 Days Initiative Act in honor of Danielle Sullivan, who reported a rape 43 days too late, the bill (SB 133) will double the amount of time after a crime is committed that victims can report a rape and see the state take action.

Right now, victims have four years to report rapes. When the victim is a minor, charges can be filed and prosecuted at any time, and the bill doesn’t change that.

Supporters say the statute of limitations extension is important because victims often struggle with coming forward for some time.

The legislation — sponsored by Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando — has been sent to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature or veto.

The bill also corrects a 2011 error by the Legislature that made sexting an unenforceable crime. Attempting to stop charging minors with child pornography for sending inappropriate pictures of themselves, lawmakers made sexting a civil offense. No court has jurisdiction over juvenile civil crimes.

Now, sexting will be punishable by a small fine and community service for a first offense.

The Legislature is also sending Scott a bill that would let children who are victims or potential victims of rape and other violent acts secretly record their attackers.

The House unanimously approved the (HB 7001) on Friday. It applies to victims who are under the age of 18.

Florida prohibits conversations to be recorded or otherwise intercepted without the consent of both parties.

The bill was filed after the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for an ice cream truck driver convicted of raping his teenage stepdaughter over a period of years.

The girl twice secretly recorded him talking about the assaults with an MP3 player hidden under her shirt. The court said the recordings shouldn't have been used as evidence.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.