When a crime occurs, the government is responsible for pressing charges and criminally prosecuting the alleged offender. However, the government has a limited amount of time to do so for most charges. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations, and it varies based on the crime you are charged with. If the time limit on a certain charge expires, the government may be barred from ever bringing a criminal prosecution.
Statutes of limitations may be different for different types of charges and can vary by state. While most offenses come with a time limit for prosecution, a few especially severe crimes carry no such restrictions and prosecution can be brought at any time. In California, the statute of limitations for sexual assault charges is indefinite and may be brought any time after the offense occurs. However, this applies only to sexual assault crimes committed on or after January 1, 2017. Depending on how and when your alleged crime occurred, the statute of limitations for your case might be different.
If you are suspected of a sexual assault, call our legal team for help. Our Los Angeles sexual assault attorneys can help you fight the charges against you no matter how long ago the alleged incident occurred. Call our offices at (626) 628-9596 to schedule a free, private legal consultation with our staff.
California Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault
A statute of limitation is a law that places a time limit on filing criminal charges against a defendant. The statute of limitation relevant to your case depends on what crime you allegedly committed. In California, the statute of limitations in sexual assault cases can be limited to a few years, or it may last forever, depending on the nature of the sexual offense.
According to the California Penal Code § 799(b)(1), prosecution for certain felony sexual assault crimes may commence at any time after the offense is committed. It does not matter if it has been 1 year or 50 years since the offense allegedly happened. The government may always bring charges for these kinds of sexual assault cases. This particular statute includes more serious sexual assaults, such as forcible rape.
There may be much shorter statutes of limitations for sexual assaults that are not felonies or not included in the statute mentioned above. According to the California Penal Code § 800, if an offense can be punished by 8 or more years in state prison, the statute of limitations is only 6 years from the date of the alleged incident. If your sexual assault allegations fit this description, this statute would apply to your case. Under the California Penal Code § 801, even more minor offenses are subject to a statute of limitations of 3 years.
The time limit on your criminal charges will depend on the nature of the alleged sexual assault. Assaults that are serious violent felonies are more likely to have no such limitation. However, less severe charges may have a time limit of 3 or 6 years. The statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the sexual assault. However, in cases where the assault is repeated over time, the statute will start over at the most recent assault or instance of abuse. Call our San Bernardino sexual assault attorneys for assistance with your case.
California Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault Involving Minors
Children and minors are often given special treatment under the law. For many criminal cases, the statutes of limitations are different for underage victims. Serious cases of rape, including those with child victims, have no statutes of limitations. However, in other cases of sexual offenses committed against minors, the statute of limitation allows prosecutors to bring criminal charges as late as the victim’s 40th birthday. This is much longer than the 3 or 6-year limitations previously mentioned.
Minors are treated differently than adults because minors are uniquely disadvantaged when it comes to sexual assault cases. First, minors often cannot report a crime on their own. They often need the assistance of an adult or must wait until they are 18. In many cases, by the time the minor turns 18, the ordinary statute of limitations has already expired.
Second, many minor victims are controlled, manipulated, and abused by defendants. Minors are often prevented from reporting the sexual assault or are threatened or intimidated. Many victims of sexual assault do not escape the control of their abusers until they are well into adulthood. Many more repress memories of the assault and do not uncover those memories until years later.
Third, many minors are abused by the people in charge of their care. When a parent, guardian, or authority figure sexually assaults a child, it is especially difficult for them to come forward. Children also rely on their parents or guardians for support. Even after a minor turns 18, they may still rely on their abusive parent or guardian for food, shelter, schooling, and other means of support. A minor may not be able to report a sexual assault to the authorities until they are financially independent adults.
If you are facing old charges for an alleged sexual assault against a minor, contact our California sex assault lawyers for help.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault Cases in California
Statutes of limitations are not necessarily the final word on when you may be criminally charged. Prosecutors may still be able to file their case after their time limit expires. The law provides several exceptions that toll the statutes of limitations. While these exceptions are very limited, they may permit prosecutors to revive criminal cases that otherwise would be barred from prosecution.
According to the California Penal Code § 803(f)(1), even if the statute of limitations has expired, prosecutors may file criminal charges within 1 year of any person reporting a sexual assault that occurred when the victim was a minor. There must be independent evidence that corroborates the victim’s story in order for prosecutors to revive the case. Not only that, but according to the California Penal Code § 803(g), prosecutors may file charges after the time limit is expired if the suspect’s identity is confirmed using DNA and the offense was committed before 2001.
Call our California sexual assault attorneys for help fighting your charges. If the statute of limitations on your case has expired, prosecutors must meet very specific conditions to revive the case.
Contact Our California Sexual Assault Attorneys
If you have been accused of sexual assault, but the statute of limitations has run, our team will help you fight the charges and defend your rights. Reach out to our California sexual assault lawyers for assistance. Call our offices at (626) 628-9596 to set up a free legal consultation.