Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault
Are you or a loved one the victim of sexual assault? Are you concerned that the statute of limitations may be expiring, restricting your opportunities to file a compensation claim?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for victims of sexual abuse and are here to help. Contact our law offices today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation.
All sensitive or confidential information you share with our sexual abuse attorneys remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
The Statutes of Limitations on Sex Crimes (Felony Sex)
A statute of limitations is a time frame laid out in law as determined by the state, which starts to run either upon the occurrence or discovery of specific facts or when another event occurs first. The statutes of limitations typically expire after particular years from the date the incident occurred.
Statutes of limitations (time limits) exist to promote justice, hold the criminal accountable, and provide victims the peace of mind they need to move beyond the sex offense they have endured.
Congress and state legislators enact the statutes of limitations to help ensure that people or entities facing legal actions involving felony sex have a legal reprieve if the time has expired to hold them accountable for their crimes or negligence.
In addition, the expiration of the statutes of limitations ensures that the responsible party or entity that caused the damage will avoid prosecution even if it happened unknowingly or innocently many years ago.
The statute of limitations frees a person or entity responsible for felony sex to get on with their lives without being prosecuted for something they were involved in, even if unknowingly and innocently, many years ago.
Here is what you need to know about the statute of limitations in cases of felony sex assault.
What Defines Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is defined by unwanted sexual contact, even over clothes, when the victim has not consented to the sexual activity. For example, the following actions can be considered as criminal sexual assault involving an unwilling victim:
- Rape- Criminal sexual penetration of an individual without their consent
- Forcible sodomy- non-consensual criminal oral or anal sex
- Marital rape- Criminal sexual intercourse with spouse against their will
- Non-consensual inappropriate touching
- Criminal sexual contact or intercourse with minors, even with their consent (Children are too young to give consent to sexual activity)
- Coerced sexual contact
- Criminal incest- sexual intercourse between family members
- Criminal forcible penetration of objects into an individual's anus or vagina against their will
- Forcing an individual to penetrate themselves unwillingly
In many cases, the sex crimes involve underage victims who have yet reached their 18th birthday. In these cases, the statute of limitations (time limit) is often extended from the typical years from the date the incident occurred until the child remembers their childhood sexual molestation or speaks out after years of repressing what happened.
Studies show that many victims of sex crimes never tell anyone what happened during their childhood. These victims often feel shame, humiliation, and low self-esteem, believing that the sex crimes that occurred were somehow their fault even though they were a child at the time.
Acquaintance rape (felony sex) is also a form of sexual assault, where the victim is raped by someone they know and trust. The rapist, in this scenario, can be a family member, a friend, neighbor, or relative. It can happen in the following instances and more:
- Athletes and coaches
- Patients and doctors
- Students and teachers
- First date
- Parishioners and religious leaders
How Long Is the Statute of Limitations in the U.S.?
The U.S. federal statute of limitations (18 USC 3282) states that criminal charges cannot be filed for an offense if five years had passed the time limits from when the crime happened.
The purpose of this statute is to ensure the defendants do not have to defend themselves against crimes they did years ago since it's difficult or almost impossible to defend a case in these cases.
Additionally, evidence may not be available after decades have passed, making it unfair for the defendant to be prosecuted for something. However, there are certain exceptions to the statute of limitations, depending on the crime's severity.
For instance, there's no statute of limitations for capital murder. Similarly, sex crimes against minors and terrorism do not have a statute of limitations.
Moreover, the statutes of limitations differ for some white-collar crimes, such as a crime against the IRS, tax evasion, or other forms of tax crimes. For example, the statute of limitations for sexual assault is six years.
The court can also extend the statute of limitations for sex crimes or other offenses if the evidence is in another country, or the sexual violation happened out of the United States.
Meanwhile, the statute of limitations is ten years from the date when the incident happened for financial institutions, such as banks, in the following crimes:
- Mail fraud
- Bank fraud
- Embezzlement and theft
- Violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
- Falsifying bank reports, entries, and other records
- Fraud against the U.S.
- Forging a report or statement sent to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
- False statements related to the institute's insurance
How Do the Statutes of Limitations Work?
The statute of limitations restricts the time for the victims to file a charge against the offender. Therefore, legislatures enact statutes specifying how many years from when the violation happened until the victim can no longer file a claim.
For instance, if the statute of limitations for sex crimes in a U.S. state is two years, the offender cannot be indicted or charged five years after committing the sex crime. Generally, if they are arrested after the time limit specified by the statute of limitations, their lawyer can avoid trial by citing the time limits based on the law.
What Crimes Do Not Have a Statute of Limitations?
Depending on their severity, some crimes do not have a statute of limitations. For instance, the five-year statute of limitations does not apply to murder.
Likewise, war crimes, genocides, and crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations as per international law.
How Long Do Victims of Sex Crimes Have to File Compensation Claims?
In most U.S. states, the survivor has two years from the date of the incident to file a charge against the offender. However, the statute of limitations can be extended in cases involving aggravated sexual assault and child sexual offenses.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Illinois for Felony Sex?
Like most other states, survivors in Illinois have two years from the date of the molestation or sexual abuse incident to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator.
Meanwhile, if the sexual abuse or sex offenses took place before the individual's 18th birthday, the charge can be commenced any time regardless of the statute of limitations.
Moreover, in some sexual abuse cases, survivors can only benefit from the extended 10-year statute of limitations if they report the crime to law enforcement within three years of its occurrence.
If they do not report, the statute of limitations for them is only three years. However, for the most severe felony sex crimes, Illinois has a statute of limitations of ten years from the date when the incident happened.
Likewise, the survivor should report the crime within three years. Local law enforcement enters the offender's DNA into the national database within 10 years of the offense, but the DNA evidence does not help find the perpetrator; the statute of limitations does not apply in this case.
Legislatures in 27 states have extended the law, creating exceptions and suspending the statutes of limitations if DNA evidence does not identify a suspect. However, the exceptions in many states vary.
The state legislature created exceptions in Georgia and has not placed a time limit on rate cases where DNA evidence has not returned a match. However, in Indiana, the law stipulates that prosecutors must charge the suspect within one year of a DNA evidence match.
The Connecticut legislature has enacted laws where sex crimes must be initially reported within five years to ensure that any future DNA evidence can be used in a court of law. In cases where the victim chooses not to report what happened or does not report the felony sex crime, it will not affect the statutes of limitations nor what occurs when DNA evidence finds a match in the database.
Classes of Felony Sex Crimes
Federal crimes are generally categorized into felonies and misdemeanors—the latter result in a prison term of under one year and fines. Meanwhile, felonies are serious offenses and are punishable by long-term imprisonment.
Here is the classification of felony sex crimes:
Class A is the highest level of felony, including atrocious crimes and kidnapping. In addition, a sex crime that takes place in the presence of a weapon or forceful coercion, resulting in the victim's death or injury, comes under Class A felony.
Some sex crimes include:
- Manslaughter during a rape attempt
- Child enticement
- Forcible sodomy
- Forcible rape
- Childhood sexual abuse of a minor - under 12 years
- Sexual abuse - first and second degree
- Childhood sexual sodomy against a child under 12 years of age
The offender could face life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 so long as the statute of limitations had not expired.
Class B includes serious crimes, but they're not downright atrocious. The judicial system enforces Class crimes by levying heavy fines and long-term imprisonment.
The sexual abuse offenders can be charged with up to 20 years in jail and fined less than $250,000 for their sex crimes.
Class C felonies also come with long prison sentences, especially if the offender has been involved in sexual misconduct in the past or has committed aggravated sexual assault.
The punishment for these Class C felonies involving sex crimes is a fine of less than $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
Class D felonies are considered the least serious criminal charge and do not involve violent acts. Although the criminal will not face strict punishments, a Class D conviction can tarnish the offender's reputation and record, making it difficult for them to get a job or win custody of their children in the event of a divorce.
Why a Delay in Filing a Claim Weakens Your Case?
As a parent of a child experiencing childhood sexual abuse or a survivor of a sex crime, you must report as soon as possible, following the statute of limitations.
A delay in filing a charge can weaken your case and may even destroy it, especially if the statute of limitations has expired. Here's why:
- Strict Deadlines: Federal law has specified strict deadlines for bringing a lawsuit forth. If you do not file a lawsuit within that time limit (statutes of limitations), you lose the right to collect compensation despite having a straightforward felony sex case.
- Lowers Chances of Success: If a survivor takes too long to report sexual assault, there's a likelihood of evidence getting damaged or lost in that duration. The sooner an attorney can take the case, the easier it will be for them to gather evidence and get your compensation. In addition, if the statutes of limitations have expired, the law is no longer enforced to hold someone accountable for felony sex.
- Lack of Counseling: A delay means the sexual abuse survivor lacks legal counseling they need after sexual assault or abuse.
- Prompt Justice: Justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, any sexual abuse victim should report as soon as possible before the statute of limitations expires. In doing so, you're not only getting justice for yourself but are also preventing the offender from attacking someone else.
Were you victimized through non-consensual sex as an adult? Did the incident happen during your childhood? In either scenario, you have the legal right to seek financial compensation from your abuser.
Call our law office today at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss what happened.
How Legal Representation Can Help
You might need to refer to your state's statute of limitations and file a lawsuit if you or a minor in your custody is a victim of a sex crime. Keep in mind the sooner you file a charge, the higher your chances of getting justice and compensation.
Waiting too long past the statute of limitations could bar you forever seeking compensation and justice you must have to move forward. Fortunately, The statutes of limitations might be extended in the unique circumstances involving your case.
Holding the Abuser Accountable
So, it's best to consult a professional for legal advice before you proceed. An attorney working on your behalf can evaluate the case's merits, review the evidence, and determine if there are sufficient grounds to hold those responsible civilly liable.
Extensive evidence is typically not required in civil cases involving sex abuse, especially if the victim's experiences happened during their childhood. Instead, sufficient evidence might only need your testimony to prove what happened and hold the abuser accountable.
Statistically, 95% of all personal injury cases involving felony sex are resolved out of court through negotiated settlements, ensuring that the victims are not required to make what happened publicly available.
A compassionate attorney specializing in felony sex injuries can ensure that your information remains private, using civil tort procedures that do not reveal the victim's name, address, and other contact information.
A Sexual Abuse Attorney to Represent Your Compensation Case
Were you victimized through sexual assault? Are you concerned that the statute of limitations is expiring, barring you from ever holding your abuser accountable?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury lawyers are ready to listen to your story in a private, confidential setting. Then, let us review your case's merits and provide legal advice on how to move your compensation claim forward.
Our legal team accepts all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This agreement ensures that you will pay no upfront fees until we resolve your case through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.
All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.