How Does Texas Legally Handle Sexual Assault, Rape Cases?

As the case against Bill Cosby grows, Christopher Kaiser for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault walks through the Texas laws surrounding sexual assault, rape cases.

By David BrownJuly 7, 2015 3:52 pm|

Allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted or raped multiple women have made headlines in the media these past few months. Now, thanks to the Associated Press, his previous admission to slipping sedatives to women has come to light. The 10-year-old deposition was part of a sexual assault trial filed by a former Temple University employee against Cosby. The case was settled privately in 2006, so no final verdict was issued.

Quaaludes were a popular sleep aid in the 60s and the 80s, but were banned from the United States in 1984. The drug acts as a sedative and has a strong interaction with alcohol. It also comes up often in sexual assault cases. In the deposition, Cosby said he had seven prescriptions to the drug.

However, this information will do little to help the women who’ve come forward against Cosby so far. Since the drug was banned thirty years ago, the statute of limitations — at least in Texas — is well past.

Christopher Kaiser is a staff attorney for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, he joins the Texas Standard to untangle the state’s laws on sexual assault and rape cases.

In Texas, the statute of limitations in rape cases is 10 years for victims who were adults when they were assaulted. For kids, there’s no statute of limitations whatsoever in criminal cases. In civil cases, like Cosby’s, it’s only a five-year limitation for adults and 15 years for children.

Kaiser says the reason the statute of limitations exists at all goes back to the philosophy behind English common law. It exists so that someone doesn’t have to live out the rest of their lives with the threat of the hammer of justice dropping, which, he says, makes sense for things like petty theft. But in sexual assault cases, Kaiser says what’s different are “the effects of trauma and the dynamics at play when victims are trying to come forward and speak out.”

The statute of limitations doesn’t make as much sense in those cases, Kaiser says.

Rape kits are another contentious issue in Texas, Kaiser says. One problem is that a lot of the kits go into evidence closets without having been tested, so it’s unclear what’s in them. Another is that even when a kit is done and tested, the issue may not be the identity of the perpetrator. The issue is whether or not it was consensual.

“What we’re seeing is that over time, you might have the same defendant make that same argument in several cases,”” Kaiser says. Like in the Cosby case, someone could get away with it once, but then several years down the road more women or men could come forward. Then it’d be necessary to be able to draw patterns and hold that person accountable, Kaiser says.

In Texas, the Cosby investigation could lead to some productive changes, Kaiser says. “I think that we’re seeing a lot more education among people who are in a position to make a difference,” he says.