This article has been written by Oishika Banerji of Amity Law School Kolkata. This article discusses the statute of limitation, which is a legislation that establishes the maximum amount of time that parties have after the alleged offence to file a lawsuit, on sexual assault with respect to the United States. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


A state has a limited amount of time after a crime is committed to file charges against the offender. Criminal statutes of limitations are the laws that specify this time limit. It can be beneficial to have a better awareness of these laws and how they differ when high-profile cases of sexual violence continue to make headlines and survivors attempt to report crimes. A statute of limitations, in broad terms, is a deadline by which someone must submit a claim. The person who wants to make a claim loses their ability to do so once the deadline passes. A statute of limitations is the deadline by which the prosecutor must submit charges in a criminal case. In certain places, the statute starts to run when the offense was committed or when it was discovered. In some states, the statute begins to run once the victim contacts the police about the incident. This article discusses the concept of a statute of limitations in its length and breadth with respect to the United States of America. 

Download Now

What is a criminal statute of limitations

Each state has statutes of limitations, which specify how long the state has to file criminal charges against a suspect. A statute of limitations can be compared to a timer; once the allotted amount of time has passed, the culprit cannot be held accountable for their actions. States, situations, and types of crimes all have different statutes of limitations. The laws of each state often answer the following issues:

  1. When does the countdown begin or what must occur for the statute of limitations to apply?
  2. What causes the statute of limitations to “toll” or what causes the clock to stop?
  3. What keeps the time ticking or guarantees that some victims, including youngsters, have enough time to come forward and report the crime?

Application and creation of statutes of limitation

State policymakers drafted and adopted the statutes of limitations. This implies that even though the crimes are identical, each state has its own set of statute of limitations laws. For instance, there is no time restriction on filing charges for rape in Alaska, thus, prosecutors can always do so, regardless of how much time has elapsed. However, the statute of limitations for rape in Massachusetts is 15 years. The prosecutor, who represents the state in criminal prosecutions, must decide which statute of limitations is applicable in a certain instance before bringing charges against an alleged offender. Prosecutors take into account some of the following issues when doing this:

What kind of crime took place

Prosecutors often have more time to charge defendants when the incident is more serious, such as when it is a felony sex crime rather than a misdemeanor.

When was the crime committed

The limitation period of a statute of limitations typically starts ticking as soon as the offense is committed. In other circumstances, such as when the victim is a juvenile, they might not become aware of the incident’s criminal nature until much later in life. In some situations, the clock may begin when the offense was said to have happened rather than when it really happened.

Who was responsible for the crime

When deciding which offense and statute of limitations apply, prosecutors will take into account the details of the victim, the suspected offender, and any relationships between them. Which statute of limitations is applicable can vary depending on a number of variables, including age or membership in a “vulnerable group” (such as a child or a person with a disability).

What exclusions are there

If DNA proof is considered to be an exclusion, the state may suspend the statute of limitations while searching the CODIS national DNA database for a match to the suspected DNA. Further, if it is found that a weapon has been used in the commission of the crime , it can have an impact on the statute of limitations as well.

Why do statutes of limitations exist

Statutes of limitations were established partly to prevent convictions based on “unreliable witness testimony,” such as recollections of incidents that took place years ago. DNA, audio or video recordings, emails, messages, and other digital communication are recent evidence that doesn’t disappear over time. These types of evidence are crucial in the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence offenses. The physical, emotional, and psychological impacts of sexual violence as well as the reasons why a victim might not report the crime right away have also grown to be better understood by society. States’ laws have changed as our understanding of these crimes and their consequences has advanced.

For a variety of reasons, states may enact statutes of limitations. A statute might be in place, for instance, because it would be challenging to prosecute a case after a certain amount of time has passed. Evidence could disappear or deteriorate. There might not be enough room to store the evidence from unsolved cases. From a philosophical standpoint, states have the right to enact statutes of limitations to prevent criminals from spending the rest of their lives in an unfavorable situation. The potential defendant can eventually move past the period during which he or she would be obligated to make amends for their misdeeds.

Scope of the statute of limitations in the United States

The federal system and the 50 states that make up the United States have different statutes of limitations. Generalizations can be made, such as the fact that murder does not fall under the statute of limitations and that, with the exception of a small number of offenses, most crimes are subject to statutes that call for swift prosecution. States and Congress have recently extended the statutes of limitations for two types of crimes, namely, sex offenses involving children and general sex offenses. News stories concerning clergy and other authority figures abusing children on a regular basis have led to calls for the repeal or extension of statutes of limitations across the nation.  Similar to this, reports of powerful men abusing their position to force sex from women in subordinate roles have sparked comparable extensions of the statutes of limitations for crimes involving sex. These changes have occurred in both liberal and conservative states across the country.

As the name suggests, statutes are the only thing that can restrict the government’s power to file criminal charges. The common law system that the United States inherited from England did not have them. Despite the United States’ adoption of English common law, the First Congress passed legislation establishing particular statutes of limitations. By law, capital offense cases may be brought at any moment in the federal system. A catch-all clause was established by Congress that gives federal crimes a five-year statute of limitations. Congress has on occasion established special statutes of limitations for a given offense. For instance, there is a 20-year statute of limitations on art theft and a 10-year statute of limitations on arson.

Depending on specific policy concerns for additional crimes or situations that would make detection challenging, the pattern varies. There are presently two significant provisions in federal law that extended the statute of limitations for child sex abuse prosecutions. One clause completely abolishes the statute of limitations in some situations of child sexual assault. Another clause permits charges to be filed as soon as possible after the expiration of 10 years or the victim’s life. The limitation period in each state differs significantly. The majority of states do not have a statute of limitations for the offense of murder. The duration of the statutes of limitations for various offenses varies between states. For instance, Alaska has two tiers of offenses, with some having a five-year statute of limitations and others having a ten-year one. 

The standard statute of limitations in Arizona is seven years. Depending on the crime, California sets the sentences at six or three years. There is no statute of limitations for the most serious offenses in Connecticut, which is a patchwork state. The statute of limitations is five years for the majority of other offenses. The statute of limitations for sexual assault, abuse, or exploitation is thirty years. The statute of limitations in situations of child abuse begins to run five years after the victim contacts the police. The majority of jurisdictions acknowledge a number of equitable exceptions to the stricter deadlines imposed by statutes of limitations. If a criminal eludes police or otherwise thwarts their reasonable efforts to find him, the statute of limitations may be tolled.

A typical federal law states that “Any person fleeing from justice shall not be subject to the operation of any statute of limitations.” Some jurisdictions, for instance, demand evidence that the criminal was operating or stagnant. Other laws extend the statute of limitations while the perpetrator is out of state, regardless of how long that absence lasts.

The main justifications for time limits center on widely held beliefs that prompt investigation and prosecution ensure that a conviction or acquittal is a reliable outcome and not the result of a hazy memory or insufficient evidence; that old wrongs shouldn’t be brought back to life except in rare instances of concealing the offense or the identity of the offender, and that community security and economy in the allocation of enforcement resources demand that time limits be imposed.

What is the statute of limitations for rape in the United States

The alleged offense must meet the criteria for rape before the statute of limitations can be declared to be in effect. Every state defines a particular offense differently. Rape was characterized in common law as forcible, illegal sexual contact with a person without their consent. Rape was not considered to include encounters between spouses under this concept. Furthermore, this term frequently calls for a man to be the offender. While some legal systems continue to use this concept, others have changed it to refer to coerced sexual activity that does not specifically ask for penetration. According to the Model Penal Code, 1962, rape is defined as a sexual activity involving a man using force or threatening to use force against a woman. There are various degrees of rape, each of which has a distinct punishment. The statute of limitations for sexual assault could be shorter than that for rape.

Ten years or less

A ten-year or shorter statute of limitations is common in many jurisdictions. The time period of ten years is applicable for the statute of limitations effective in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Montana, Texas, and Washington. The statute in Maine is eight years. While the statute of limitations is six years in Oregon, Vermont, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Hawaii, it is seven years in North Dakota. Florida has a four-year statute, while Connecticut has a five-year statute. The three-year statute of limitations in Minnesota is considered to be the shortest among those discussed above.

More than ten years

There are a handful of states that have statutes of limitations that are longer than ten years. For instance, Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations is twelve years. Some types of rape are subject to fifteen-year statutes of limitations in Georgia, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. The statute of limitations in Ohio is 20 years.

DNA exception

Many of the states that do have a statute of limitations on rape have an exemption for DNA evidence. If a match is discovered in the DNA database after the general law expires, for instance, some states may have a general statute with an exception.

Other exceptions

Along with the exceptions that have been discussed above, there might be further relevant exceptions. For instance, if a minor was the victim, the statute of limitations might be extended. Similarly, if the suspect deliberately avoids prosecution or moves to another state, certain jurisdictions do not start tolling the period for the statute.

No limit

For some types of rape or all rape offenses, many states do not have a statute of limitations. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are among such states.

Exceptions to the statute of limitation in the United States 

There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations. Unless there is a special code section that increases the statute of limitations for that particular offense, federal law states that the standard 5-year statute of limitations applies in every situation. There is no statute of limitations for offenses punishable by death penalty, such as capital murder (18 USC 3281). Additionally, there is no statute of limitations for terrorism, whether it results in death, significant bodily harm, or injury (18 USC 3286). There is no statute of limitations for sexual offenses committed against minors (18 USC 3283).

The statute of limitations varies for certain white-collar offenses. For instance, 26 USC 6531 governs a violation of the Internal Revenue Service. Charges for tax offenses, including tax evasion, as defined by 26 USC 7201, and failure to submit a tax return, as defined by 26 USC 7203, must be filed within six years of the offense, according to federal tax law. The statute of limitations has strict requirements for major fraud in the United States. According to 18 USC 1031, a substantial fraud charge against the US must involve at least $ 1,000,000. A person who willfully defrauds the federal government in connection with any grant, contract, loan, federal assistance, etc. is punishable by a 10-year sentence in federal prison. Major fraud in the United States is subject to a seven-year statute of limitations from the time the offense was committed.

On the United States Attorney’s request, the court has occasionally extended the statute of limitations. Here are a few instances:

  1. The first accusations were dropped (18 USC 3288). After the statute of limitations expires, federal prosecutors have an additional six months to file new accusations.
  2. The crime was committed abroad, or the proof is on international soil (18 USC 3292).

Federal law raises the statute of limitations for the following immigration violations from five to ten years.

  1. Use forged or fake citizenship documents (18 USC 1423).
  2. As a petitioner, declarant, applicant, or witness in a citizenship or naturalization process, assuming another person’s identity (18 USC 1424).
  3. Illegally obtaining citizenship or naturalization (18 USC 1425).
  4. Manufacture, sale, distribution, or duplication of citizenship or naturalization documents that are fake, fraudulent, or falsified (18 USC 1426).
  5. Sale of citizenship or naturalization documents that are otherwise valid (18 USC 1427).
  6. Not returning a revoked naturalization certificate (18 USC 1428).
  7. Unauthorized passport issuance (18 USC 1541).
  8. Making a false statement on a passport application (18 USC 1542).
  9. Passport fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, mutilation, or modification (18 USC 1543).
  10. Using a passport that belongs to someone else (18 USC 1544).

For the following offenses, banks and other financial institutions have a 10-year statute of limitations:

  1. Banking fraud (scheme or artifice to defraud a financial institution) (18 USC 1344).
  2. Postal fraud (using the mail for a scheme or artifice to defraud) (18 USC 1341).
  3. Online fraud (using wire, radio, or television in a scheme or artifice to defraud) (18 USC 1343).
  4. Violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (18 USC 1962), which is based on bank fraud (18 USC 1344).
  5. Receiving commissions or gifts in exchange for obtaining loans (18 USC 215).
  6. Theft, embezzlement, or improper use by a bank employee or officer (18 USC 656).
  7. Stealing money from a bank that receives federal funding (18 USC 657).

Compared to other offenses, conspiracy crimes have a highly distinct statute of limitations. For instance, the statute of limitations operates when the last act that was a part of the conspiracy was carried out in cases of conspiracies brought under 18 USC 371 involving a conspiracy to commit a federal crime or to defraud the United States. The same holds true for narcotics trafficking under 21 USC 846 and schemes to cheat the federal government by fabricating claims under 18 USC 286.

Criminal statute of limitations for rape in Washington State

The statute of limitations for a rape claim can be 10 years, 20 years, or even without a time limit, depending on the specifics of the claimed conduct.

  1. You cannot be charged with third-degree rape if the alleged offense occurred more than ten years ago, according to the law. Third-degree rape is a class C felony. The third-degree rape of a child is exempt from the 10-year limit.
  2. Charges of rape in the first or second degree have a 20-year statute of limitations after the alleged crime was committed. Charges of first- or second-degree rape of a victim who was under the age of 16 at the time of the alleged crime, or charges of first, second, or third-degree rape of a child, are exempt from the 20-year limit.

No matter how long has passed since the alleged commission, these accusations may be brought at any time after that point:

  1. If the victim is younger than sixteen, it is considered first-degree rape.
  2. If the victim is younger than sixteen, the crime is rape in the second degree.
  3. Child rape in the first degree.
  4. Child rape in the second degree.

A conviction for rape can be a Class A or Class C felony.

How long does it take to file a civil lawsuit in Washington State for rape damages

According to Washington law, anyone who accuses someone of the civil tort of rape or sexual assault must bring a lawsuit within two years after the alleged incident in order to seek monetary compensation from the accused. The complainant may permanently forfeit their ability to hold the defendant financially accountable when the deadline has passed. Rape can be classified both as a criminal offense and a tort. A “tort” involves civil litigation that is unrelated to any criminal proceedings. 

Why there has been a call for abandoning statutes of limitation for sex and child sex offenses

  1. The desire to extend statutes of limitations in numerous sex offense cases may be found in headlines almost anywhere. Prior to the #MeToo movement, the public was outraged by the 57 revelations of years of cover-ups involving child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other persons in positions of authority. In the middle of the 1980s, allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests first appeared in the US. The 1990s saw the publication of the first books and articles about the abuse, which culminated in a Boston Globe newspaper series on its significance. These cases keep coming up with different themes; Church authorities frequently reassigned priests to other dioceses; they infrequently reported the abuse to authorities. 
  2. Suits against the Church have increased. These lawsuits were ultimately settled, which cost the Church millions of dollars. Church representatives frequently withheld information during discovery in an effort to protect the Church and its priests from criticism. Another strategy was to acknowledge the abuse scandal while trying to contain the harm. For example, Church officials claimed that just 1% of their priests worldwide were implicated in abuse as recently as 2008, years after the instances started to rise.
  3. A grand jury in Pennsylvania released its findings regarding abuse in the state’s churches in 2018. The grand jury discovered more than 1000 allegations of abuse by nearly 300 priests in six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses in its 884-page report. According to the research, there were probably hundreds more cases that were not recorded. The state only pursued two criminal prosecutions despite evident criminal offenses. That was true since most offenses were no longer punishable by law. The Pennsylvania grand jury suggested the abolition of the statute of limitations for criminal offenses as one of its recommendations.
  4. In a report released in 2019, the Associated Press stated that some 1,700 priests, monks, and other Church members who had been accused of sexual assault were “living beneath the radar,” unobserved by Church or law enforcement officials.  Many of those adults held positions of trust or power and interacted with young people.
  5. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a number of stories off the top page. But the Boy Scout sex abuse controversy was another major news event in 2020. Although the issue has been going on for a while, it only recently gained steam. Significant jury decisions in civil lawsuits eventually prompted the organization to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal court in February 2020. By November 2020, more than 60,000 men had filed lawsuits against the group, and many more victims had opted out of the legal process. Similar to the Catholic Church, Boy Scout leaders spent years refuting allegations of abuse.
  6. Bill Cosby’s alleged crimes have brought global attention to the challenges encountered by women who have been abused by powerful men. Despite more than 50 women coming forward to accuse Cosby, prosecutors were only just able to move forward with charges against him because the statute of limitations had almost run out on the allegations that were ultimately brought. Jeffrey Epstein was another well-known individual facing numerous sexual abuse charges before he committed suicide in custody. Epstein would have been able to evade prosecution on state law crimes but would have been liable to federal charges because of their extended statutes of limitations, similar to Weinstein, Boy Scout leaders, and priests.

Policymakers have put out a number of justifications to support lengthening or eliminating statutes of limitations in cases involving sex and child sex offenses, supported by victim rights organizations. Here are a few of the justifications as expressed by proponents of victims’ rights. For instance, “the act of rape doesn’t change with time – just because a certain amount of time has gone doesn’t mean that someone is less accountable,” according to a spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Some criminals commit crimes repeatedly, endangering the public’s safety. We don’t want to praise a rapist for being skilled at avoiding detection, as the RAINN spokeswoman said.

Statute of limitations, in the opinion of many who support victims of sexual and child sex abuse, “are a painful hindrance to justice.” Some supporters claim that, contrary to what is typically taught in schools, “our brains are actually built to hang on to the details of stressful and traumatic experiences.” Other legislative improvements are also mentioned by victim’s rights organizations as a result of their good impact on the legislation. The majority of jurisdictions now permit victim impact statements and evidence to be used in criminal cases during the sentencing phase.

Cases with DNA evidence are given special consideration by some legislators. A state may maintain its statutes of limitations for other crimes, but if DNA evidence is present, it may make an exemption. These initiatives frequently coexist with laws that extended the statute of limitations in civil lawsuits. As previously said, in other cases, such as with the Boy Scouts, an extension of the statute of limitations has sparked a wave of lawsuit files that have driven the organization into bankruptcy. Some proponents of victims’ rights contend that the reality warrants extending or eliminating the criminal statute of limitations.

Adult Survivors Act, 2022 : elimination of Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault for one year in New York

With the signing of the Adult Survivors Act (the “ASA”) by Governor Hochul, New York has made a significant step toward giving victims of sexual abuse a means of pursuing legal action against their abusers and employers that was previously barred by the statute of limitations and/or notice of claim requirements. The Adult Survivors Act gives sexual assault survivors a year-long “lookback window” to file a claim. It is sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. Advocates claim that the old sexual assault rules were incompatible with how traumatized victims cope with their experiences. Many are afraid of reprisals, violence, or being shunned. Some people discover they were assaulted several years after the fact. By allowing timely claims to be filed, the ASA allows survivors to pursue claims that would otherwise be denied due to statutes of limitations or other notice requirements.

Additionally, these accusations can now be brought in court because of the recent passing of the Federal Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021. The ASA will give survivors a one-year opportunity to bring previously forbidden claims relating to a sexual offense, starting six months after the ASA’s effective date. Therefore, survivors will have until about November 2023 to submit their claims. Additionally, the ASA gives these cases trial preference and instructs the Chief Administrator of the courts to issue guidelines that will allow the revived cases to be decided quickly.

The New York Penal Law’s (Article 130) provisions on sex offenses and crimes of incest cover about 20 offenses that are subject to the ASA. These offenses include rape, forced contact, and sexual abuse. The state of New York has only recently taken this precaution to give victims of sexual abuse some time to process before deciding the best course of action. The Child Victims Act, which was passed in 2019 and offers a comparable lookback period and permits survivors of childhood sexual abuse to make civil claims up until the age of 55, served as the inspiration for the ASA. The state increased the statute of limitations that year from three to twenty years.

Similar laws have recently been established in a number of states around the nation, including New Jersey, where over a 24-month period beginning in December 2019, about a thousand complaints were filed. The ASA’s extensive application means that survivors will also be able to file claims against organizations or companies that would have been accountable had the claims been made in a timely manner. As a result, employers may be identified as defendants in the litigation in situations where the sexual abuse happened at work or was connected to the employment relationship. 

Institutions and employers from all over New York will undoubtedly be named as defendants given the scope of the New York Human Rights Law and the resulting potential liability on employers for the actions of their employees, as individual defendants are not always able to pay settlements and/or judgments. Practically speaking, the Child Victims Act did not provide this outcome because the young victims were not working at the time of their victimization due to their age. While the accused, their employers, and institutions will undoubtedly gripe about the difficulties of defending cases of sexual assault that took place decades ago under their watch, the victim will still be required to prove their case and face the same evidentiary challenges.

Views on the Adult Survivors Act, 2022

The truthfulness of the accusers versus the accused, the accuracy of the medical records, and any eyewitnesses who were alerted to the sexual assault just before it occurred will all be crucial factors in many of these cases. It is also anticipated that the court proceedings would include expert testimony on how sexual assault victims process their experiences and the reasons they might delay reporting the assault for a long time. In the event that their claims are validated, victims will have the ability to pursue all available remedies, including monetary, non-monetary, and punitive damages. Victims in situations governed by the New York Human Rights Law will now be eligible to request reimbursement for their legal expenses. 

The existing legal framework in New York state courts also makes it possible for victims to file their claims using the alias “Jane Doe” and avoid immediately disclosing their identities, though this is likely to be contested by the defendants and their employers. The legislation protecting victims of sexual assault moved slowly, but there was continual resistance. This is not the first time the ASA has been proposed, let alone approved by the State Senate with no opposition. Similar support was shown for the initial effort on June 3, 2021, but the Assembly did not even get to vote on the bill. That summer, sexual assault allegations against then-governor Andrew Cuomo made it impossible to avoid the subject in New York.

Advocate Marissa Hoechstetter conjectured that the choice may have been influenced by the growing controversy, while other participants claimed additional debate was just necessary. She said that if the law had been passed, the governor would have been compelled to sign it. The Adult Survivors Act must be advanced, as many survivors do not receive justice, according to Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizons, the biggest victim services NGO in the United States and an organization that was instrumental in the struggle for the passing of the ASA. The ASA will thus restore the time stolen from survivors by their abusers.

Purpose of the Adult Survivors Act, 2022

The newly passed law gives victims a fighting shot at full recompense to make them whole, so safety is not the only intended benefit. The statute of limitations has significantly decreased victim compensation in previous assault cases. It will be simpler for victims to obtain adequate compensation for their suffering once the new provision is in effect.

While the passage of the Adult Survivors Act represents a victory for sexual abuse victims, it is unclear how many survivors will come forward and how juries will respond to their claims when considering whether to hold people and possibly their employers accountable for actions that took place decades ago. There are undoubtedly a lot of people who believed they could avoid being held responsible for their activities and who now have to think about being named in court and held accountable for them even though they happened a long time ago.

Whether or not there should be a time limit on cases of sexual assault and rape in state legislatures 

Many state legislatures disagree on whether or not there should be a time limit on cases of rape and sexual assault. The deadline is usually extended for victims of child sexual abuse, even in states with stricter limitation windows. The majority of states also permit the “tolling” or halt of the statute of limitations in cases where DNA evidence is available. Some states have relatively lenient statutes of limitations that begin when the victim accepts they were sexually attacked (referred to as the “point of discovery”). In light of the #MeToo movement, which gave many rape and sexual assault victims the confidence to come forward and share their experiences years, or even decades, after the alleged assault, the debate over whether or not there should be a statute of limitations in cases of sex assault has gained momentum.

Arguments for a statute of limitations 

Those who support a statute of limitations contend that it is reasonable to restrict the amount of time that can be spent pursuing legal action since crucial evidence is sometimes lost, witnesses might leave their positions, and memories of an incident can alter over time. They contend that pursuing legal action for a supposed sexual assault that took place so long ago based on out-of-date evidence is unfair to the accused, who can suffer mental, social, and financial hardship from such a severe accusation even if proven not guilty or accountable. Additionally, some people contend that the alleged offender shouldn’t face the prospect of criminal punishment while spending the remainder of their lives in “purgatory.” Instead, they ought to be permitted to proceed.

Arguments against a statute of limitations

On the other hand, those who are against a statute of limitations contend that a sexual assault has substantial, long-lasting impacts on a victim’s physical, emotional, and psychological health. If recovery is ever possible, victims frequently need years or even decades of therapy to process their trauma. It would give victims more time to acquire the assistance they require before seeking justice if the statute of limitations for these heinous crimes was extended or eliminated entirely. Additionally, some victims wait until the threat has passed before reporting sexual assault because they are afraid to do so because the abuser has a position of power. They contend that placing a temporal restriction on abusers’ ability to continue abusing others while getting away with previous transgressions is necessary.

States’ view on extension or elimination of the statute of limitations for sexual assault charges

Several states have recently approved or proposed legislation to lengthen or abolish the statute of limitations for sexual assault claims:

  1. Arkansas: Arkansas increased the age limit for legal liability for child sex abuse from 18 to 55 in May 2021. Any victim could file a lawsuit for a period of two years under the statute.
  2. California: A Bill to completely repeal the state’s criminal statute of limitations on rape and other sexual felonies was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2016. Previously, there was a 10-year maximum for prosecution.
  3. Colorado: A law repealing the statute of limitations for survivors of sexual assault in civil claims was approved by the state assembly in March 2021.
  4. Lowa: Advocates are urging the state legislature to approve Senate File 572, which would do away with the statutes of limitations for both the criminal and civil cases of child sexual assault.
  5. Louisiana: A Bill to increase the statute of limitations for child sexual assault from 10 years to 35 years was unanimously approved by the state House in May 2021. The Senate will now review it.
  6. Minnesota: The state legislature discussed a Bill to end Minnesota’s rape and other sex crimes statute of limitations in 2021, thereafter removing the statute of limitations on September 15, 2021.
  7. Ohio: Two state lawmakers reintroduced a Bill to end the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil sex crimes in May 2021.
  8. Oklahoma: The House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 3024 in 2020, which seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations for sex crimes involving children.
  9. Oregon: The statute of limitations for some sex crimes in Oregon was increased from 6 to 12 years in 2016. As of January 1, 2016, if a survivor of child abuse (under 18) wishes to file a claim, they may do so at any point before turning 30.
  10. Texas: The civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse doubled to 30 years in 2019. House Bill 2071, which would repeal the civil statute of limitations for young rape and sexual assault victims, is being considered by the Texas legislature since 2021.

The federal government has recently taken steps to regulate how rape kits are gathered and stored in addition to state rules. The Sexual-Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act of 2016 was passed by Congress, and it mandates that all states maintain rape kits for 20 years or until the rape statute of limitations in that state has run its course, whichever comes first.


The time frames that determine whether you can be sued in civil court or face criminal charges are known as statutes of limitations. You cannot file a lawsuit after the deadline has passed; however, you may ask for the matter to be dismissed. In criminal or civil cases when the statute of limitations has expired, the court lacks jurisdiction. The defense that the statute of limitations has expired is one that can be used to refute a criminal charge, but if it is not used before a trial, the defendant has likely renounced their right to do so. It is necessary to demonstrate that the criminal complaint or indictment was submitted after the statute of limitations’ five-year period had passed in order to effectively invoke this defense



Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals, and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here