For each state, there is a specific window of time to charge a perpetrator when a crime has been committed. Statutes of limitations, by definition, are the laws that determine this time frame. High-profile sexual violence cases are continuing to make headlines. It is important to have a better understanding of these types of laws and how they vary, as survivors seek to report crimes.
Criminal Statute of Limitations
Every state has a statute of limitations that determines the amount of time they have to press charges against a criminal. Statutes of limitations are like a timer: the clock starts as soon as the crime occurs. A perpetrator can no longer be charged with the crime once time runs out.
The law varies by state, type of crime, and situation. Each state has its own laws that address several important questions:
- In order to trigger the statute of limitations, what needs to happen?
- What circumstances can cause the statute of limitations to pause the clock?
- In order to keep the clock running, what ensures that victims like children have enough time to report the crime?
There are different statutes of limitations for criminal and civil criminal sexual abuse cases in the state of Georgia.
Victims can demand compensation, including economic and non-economic damages, in a civil lawsuit. Adults have two years from the event to file a civil lawsuit against a sexual abuser. Adults who were abused as children have until their 53rd birthday to file a civil lawsuit against a sexual abuser.
The statute of limitations on child sexual assault ended before a victim’s 23rd birthday until 2015. The new law allows claims that were previously barred by time to be filed, but in order to file, your previously time-barred assault must have been filed between 7/1/2015 and 7/1/2017.
Under federal law, if you experience sexual abuse in the workplace, you may also file a sexual harassment lawsuit. The charge, or complaint, must be filed within 180 days of the harassment or abuse with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In order to determine whether the commission will pursue a case on your behalf, they will investigate your claim. If the commission decides not to prosecute your case, a Right to Sue letter will be issued. The lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of the letter.
Criminal Sexual Abuse Cases
The state of Georgia files criminal sexual abuse cases on the victim’s behalf. If the abuser is found guilty, they may be incarcerated and will also be forced to register as a sex offender.
Criminal charges must be filed by a prosecutor under Georgia law by a certain date:
- Child sexual abuse that occurred prior to 7/1/2012: cases must be reported to authorities or be filed 7 years from the victim’s 16th birthday
- Child sexual abuse that occurred on or after 7/1/2012: there is no statute of limitations
- Adult rape: cases must be reported 15 years from the incident
- Sexual assault (adult felony): cases must be reported 4 years from the incident
- Charges where DNA identifies the perpetrator: there is no statute of limitations
- Aggravated sexual battery: there is no statute of limitations
For many sex offenses, the state of Georgia offers extended statutes of limitations, but you should still try to report these crimes right away. Evidence can disappear and memories can fade over time. It may be more difficult to build a strong case against the person who abused you if you wait too long.
Statute of Limitations on Rape and Sexual Assault
There are different deadlines for filing rape and sexual assault claims.
The statute of limitations for rape includes the following:
- Cases must be prosecuted within 15 years after the offense if the rape is forcible.
- Cases must be prosecuted within 7 years after the offense if the rape is not forcible.
- If a victim is under 16 years of age when the crime happened and the offense was committed before June 30, 2012 but on or after July 1, 1992, the period doesn’t begin until the violation is reported to law enforcement or the victim turns 16.
- If the victim is under 16 years of age when the crime happened, the case may be prosecuted at any time for offenses that occurred on or after July 1, 2012.
The statute of limitations for sexual assault includes the following:
- Sexual assault cases must be prosecuted within 4 years after the offense took place.
- If the sexual assault occurred prior to the victim’s 18th birthday, the case must be prosecuted within 7 years after the offense took place.
- If a victim is 14 years of age but under 16 years of age, and the offender is 18 years of age or younger and four years older than the victim, the case must be prosecuted within 2 years after the offense took place.
Expansion of Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations in Georgia
House Bill 479, the Hidden Predator Act, was discussed by Georgia lawmakers in March 2020. The age limit for filing civil cases against accused sexual abusers would be raised from 23 to 38 and would also allow victims to sue organizations such as the Boy Scouts or the Catholic church for failing to report or prevent the abuse. Currently, civil cases can only be brought against suspected abusers. The bill would also open up a one-year window starting in July 2020, where victims of child sexual abuse up to age 50 could sue organizations that looked the other way, in addition to the abusers. There was no age limit during this window under previous versions of the bill.
Contact Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today
Sexual abuse is devastating to any victim, no matter if it occurs at the hands of a stranger, caregiver, teacher, mentor, or even a family member. The emotional and mental scars a sexual abuse victim receives can last the rest of their lives.
Our experienced team at The Eichholz Law Firm helps victims of sexual assault and abuse. We want our victims to get the justice they rightfully deserve.
If you or someone you love has been sexually assaulted or abused, contact our lawyers at The Eichholz Law Firm today. We’ll help you get the justice you deserve so you can put your life back together. To get started, fill out an online contact form, or call us at 855-551-1019. Any information you provide to us will be strictly confidential.
RAINN. “The Laws In Your State: Georgia”, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, https://www.rainn.org/laws-your-state-georgia. Accessed June 10, 2020.