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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 1999

Governor Signs "Melissa's Law" Victim's Rights Bill

KANKAKEE -- Governor George H. Ryan today signed legislation to extend the statute of limitations on sexual assault crimes for victims, including those who were under 18 years old at the time of the offense.

Dubbed "Melissa's Law", House Bill 329 was introduced in part in response to the case of Melissa Gaines, of the Kankakee area, who was molested as a child, but missed the deadline for reporting the crime by one year after she received counseling as an adult. Ryan signed the bill in a continued show of support for victim's rights.

"By extending the statute of limitations on sexual assault crimes against children, we acknowledge that it often takes years for victims--especially young victims-to come to grips with extent of their pain and injury," Ryan said. "But that doesn't lessen the severity of the crime and shouldn't allow such deeds to go unpunished," he added.

House Bill 329 extends the statutes of limitations to 10 years after the date of the offense, or 10 years after the victim turns 18, if a minor at the time of the offense, for:

  • criminal sexual assault,
  • aggravated criminal sexual assault,
  • predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, or
  • aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

    "Sexual abuse isn't an easy subject to discuss, and victims need to know that they have the support when they are finally able to tell someone," Ryan added. "With this new law, prosecutors will have another tool to help them to prosecute these criminals and maybe prevent them from harming someone else."

    The governor noted House bill 329 extends the statute of limitations on the abuse offenses to 10 years, if the victim was under 18 and the offender is a family member. In cases where the offender is not a family member, if the victim is under 18 at the time of the offense, the statute is extended for 10 years, as long as the victim reports the offense before turning 21 years old. For victims at least 18, the statue of limitations is 10 years, if the victim files a report within two years after it was committed.

    The bill also eliminates a provision in current law that says if the victim reports the crime within six months of its occurrence, prosecution for criminal sexual assault or aggravated criminal sexual assault must be commenced within five years of the commission of the offense.

    House Bill 329 was sponsored by state Senators John Cullerton, D-Chicago; Duane Noland, R-Blue Mound; Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago; Barack Obama, D-Chicago; and Donne Trotter, D-Chicago. The bill was sponsored in the House by state representatives Julie Curry, D-Decatur; Mary Kay O'Brien, D-Coal City; Kurt Granberg, D-Centralia; Edgar Lopez, D-Chicago; Jay Hoffman, D-Edwardsville; Jeff Schoenberg, D-Wilmette; Philip Novak, D-Kankakee; Jack Franks, D-Woodstock; Maggie Crotty, D-Oak Forest; Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago; Sonia Silva, D-Chicago; Eileen Lyons, R-LaGrange; Dale Righter, R-Mattoon; Anne Zickus, R-Palos Hills; Ronald Lawfer, R-Freeport; and David Winters, R-Rockford. The bill takes effect Jan. 1, 2000.


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