The aftermath of a sexual assault can be disorienting, confusing, and scary. You may not know how to seek help, how to report the crime to police, or whether you want to report the crime at all. While it is important for survivors to weigh their options and make an informed decision on how to seek justice, state laws require survivors to report an instance of sexual assault within a certain time frame, also known as the statute of limitations.
Statutes of Limitations Differ from State to State
The deadline by which you have to report an instance of sexual assault changes depending on which state you experienced the crime in. Different states have different laws regarding sexual assault and other instances of sexual violence, and the statutes of limitations can vary widely based on the nature of the offense.
For example, many states do not impose a statute of limitations on high-level felony sex crimes, but have deadlines in place for lower-level felonies. Other states have statutes of limitations on all felony sex crimes, and others do not have statutes of limitations for any felony sex crime.
- California imposes a 10-year statute of limitations for rape. The state also requires that a person who suffered a sex offense as a minor report the crime before he or she turns 28 years old.
- Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming, West Virginia, and South Carolina do not have a statute of limitations for any felony sex crime.
- Florida does not impose a statute of limitations for sexual battery against a minor who is under the age of 18. Sexual battery with threat or force carries a 4-year statute of limitations, and all other instances of sexual battery carry a 3-year deadline.
- New York does not have a statute of limitations for reporting rape, aggravated sexual abuse, course of sexual conduct against a child, and criminal sexual acts. It imposes a 5-year deadline on other felony sex offenses.
- Nevada has a 4-year statute of limitations for sexual assault, but if the survivor files a written report with police before the deadline passes, he or she can press charges after four years passes. For child sexual abuse, the survivor must report before he or she turns 21 if he or she knew or should have known he or she was a victim. If the survivor did not or could not have known, the survivor must file before he or she turns 28.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, one of the first steps to seeking help is to research what your state’s laws are regarding criminal and civil penalties for violent sex crimes. Speaking to an Uber sexual assault attorney can help you understand your options and the steps you need to take to report the crime by this deadline, if any apply to your circumstances.
The Purpose of Statute of Limitations
While statutes of limitations may seem confining, they serve a strong role in encouraging a survivor to report sexual assault before witnesses, suspects, and perpetrators disappear or pass away, evidence goes missing or becomes stale or unusable, or he or she forgets certain facts that can assist the prosecution. By reporting within this time frame, the survivor has the greatest chance at seeking justice against the perpetrator.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you have many legal options available to you. You can choose whether you want to report the assault to the police within the statute of limitations, and you also have the right for a hospital to preserve your sexual assault exam kit while you make this decision.
If you choose not to report the crime to the police, speaking to a sexual assault attorney can inform you of any additional pathways to justice. If you have not done so already, contact a sexual assault lawyer as soon as possible to schedule your free consultation and plan your next steps.