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What is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault?

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The statute of limitations is a legal concept that is used to determine if criminal charges can be filed for a crime that occurred in the past. This means that if someone committed a crime ten years ago, at some point they may become immune from prosecution for that offense.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Apply?

What is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual AssaultThis statute establishes different time limits for prosecution of past offenses based on the nature of the crime. More serious crimes tend to have longer time limits for prosecution than less serious offenses.

Some crimes, like murder or child abuse, have no time limit for charges to be filed. This means that a person who committed one of these crimes 50 years ago may still be eligible for prosecution and conviction. The time limit usually begins on the day the crime occurred.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault, or rape, is the act of intentionally and knowingly engaging in non-consensual sex with another person. If a person does not willingly give consent or is unable to give consent for a sexual activity, the person who engaged in sex with him or her may be charged with sexual assault.

People who are unconscious, intoxicated or disabled cannot give consent for sex. Also, children under the age of 17 are legally unable to give consent for sex. Even if a child under age 17 willingly engages in sex, the person who had sex with them may be liable for prosecution.

Rape and the Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations does not apply for all cases of sexual assault. In certain instances, the time limit for filing sexual assault charges is unlimited. Examples of sexual assault cases with no statute of limitations include:

  • any form of sexual assault on a child under age 17
  • repeated instances of child sexual abuse

For other sexual assault crimes, the statute of limitations is 10 years. This means that if a person is accused of committing a sexual assault five years ago, they may still be charged and tried for the offense. If the crime occurred 11 years ago, they may not be eligible for prosecution unless an exception applies.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

In some cases, the statute of limitations can be temporarily suspended. This is known as “tolling” the statute and can be thought of as stopping the clock on the time limit for prosecution.

For sex crimes involving minors, the statute of limitations can be tolled until the victim’s 18th birthday. This means that the statute of limitations will take effect on the day the victim turns 18, even if the crime occurred when the victim was 14.

How the Statue of Limitations Affect You

The U.S. legal system is complex and difficult for most people to understand. This means that if you have committed a crime, it’s important that you speak with a knowledgeable attorney to learn how the statute  of limitations will affect you. Reach out to Brett A. Podolsky today by calling 713.227.0087.

*Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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