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The Statute of Limitations for Rape

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Statute of Limitations for Rape in Texas

Rape is one of the most serious crimes that can be committed in the state of Texas. A conviction for this offense can be punished with years in state prison and mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender. Because rape is taken so seriously by the Texas justice system, there are specific rules for dealing with this type of offense.

These rules include the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations plays a very important role in the prosecution of criminal offenses and it can have a profound effect on the outcome of a legal case. Learning more about the statue of limitations for rape in Texas can help defendants plan and discuss legal defense strategies.

What Is The Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations is a legal concept that affects the way that criminal offenses are prosecuted. In effect, the statute of limitations places a time limit on the prosecution for a particular offense.

For example, John commits a crime but is not arrested or prosecuted at the time. Fifteen years later, evidence is produced linking John to the crime. However, John cannot be prosecuted for the offense because the statute of limitations has expired. Essentially, so much time has passed that a legal prosecution would likely be ineffective. Over time, witnesses forget details, evidence is lost or become unreliable and it becomes very difficult for the state to construct a solid prosecution.

The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault

In Texas, the statute of limitations can vary for different offenses. In some cases, certain crimes have no statute of limitations, including:

Texas law defines sexual assault as the act of engaging in non-consensual sexual activity. This definition applies whether consent was refused or the victim was unable to give consent due to being unconscious, drugged or incapable of understanding the situation. Also, minors under 17 years of age cannot legally give consent to sexual activity in the state of Texas.

In most cases of sexual assault, the statute of limitations is 10 years in Texas. By comparison, the Texas statute of limitations for many felonies is three years, seven years for arson and 10 years for high-level theft crimes. However, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations in certain cases.

Legal Exceptions

Certain sex crimes which are viewed as especially serious may be exempt from the statute of limitations. These sexually-based offenses include:

  • Continuous or repeated sexual abuse of a child
  • Sexual assault involving a minor under 17 years of age

For these offense, the statute of limitations is unlimited. Even if 50 years passes between the date of the offense and the date of charges being filed, prosecution can legally proceed.

In some cases, the statute of limitations can be “tolled”. Tolling the statute of limitations is a process that involves temporarily suspending the statute of limitations until a certain date. For example, in the case of sexual offenses involving minors under the age of 17, the statute of limitations can be tolled until the minor reaches their 18th birthday. This means that no time passes on the statute of limitations until the day that the minor turns 18. In effect the statute of limitations of 10 years takes effect on that day, even if several years have passed in the meantime.

Legal Considerations

An experienced defense attorney may be able to help their clients understand more information about the statute of limitations. As noted above, this statute can vary widely for different types of offenses. Consulting with a lawyer about a particular criminal charge may provide valuable insight regarding the statute of limitations in a particular case and how charges may be filed years after the commission of an offense.


Have you or someone you know been criminally charged with rape? In situations like this, it’s important to have a strong legal defense. Attorney Brett Podolsky can help protect your rights. Contact his office today at (713) 227-0087.

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