Learn the timelines and deadlines set for sex offenses in the Lone Star State
For both civil and criminal cases, Texas imposes statutes of limitations. The statute of limitations is the deadline by which an individual or the state must file an action on a legal matter. This deadline varies from state to state. By establishing a legal deadline, potential plaintiffs are able to understand exactly how long they have to decide whether they will take legal action.
On the other hand, potential defendants are able to have a specified date after which they no longer face the potential for prosecution or a civil lawsuit in certain situations.
If you live in Texas, this is what you should know about the statute of limitations regarding sex crimes.
Statute of limitations for sex crimes against adults
In Texas, the criminal statute of limitations for rape and other sexual assault offenses that involve a victim who is 18 or older is 10 years after the day the offense took place. The civil statute of limitations for sex crimes against adults is 5 years after the date the offense occurred.
However, there are exceptions.
For example, Texas doesn’t have a criminal statute of limitations for rape or aggravated rape cases where no suspect has been identified; nor is there a statute of limitations for rape cases that involve a serial rapist.
Statute of limitations on sex crimes against children
The Texas legislature has opted to toughen its stance on crimes against children by imposing longer statutes of limitations in both criminal and civil cases.
If the victim of a sex crime is a child, Texas law recognizes a longer statute of limitations for molestation and other sex offenses. The state legislature factored in the victim’s age when determining the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors.
In criminal cases that involve a victim who was under 17 at the time the offense occurred, the criminal statute of limitations is 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday.
From the civil court perspective, the statute of limitations in Texas for cases that involve a minor range from 10 to 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. Offenses for which the statute of limitations is 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday include:
- Sexual performance by a child
- Aggravated kidnapping (if committed with the intent to violate or sexually abuse the victim)
- Burglary (if committed with the intent to sexually assault a child, commit the continuous assault of a child, or commit aggravated kidnapping)
Some sex crimes against children have no statute of limitations for state prosecution. These crimes include sexual assault against a child and indecency with a child.
For certain offenses, the civil court statute of limitations is 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. The Texas State Legislature created this category of sex crimes in 2011. These offenses include non-sexual crimes of human trafficking of children for non-sexual labor and services, and compelling prostitution of children.
Sex crime cases that involve unknown perpetrators
In some cases, the victim of a sex crime may not be aware of the identity of the person who committed the crime against them. In these cases, the victim may file a “John Doe” lawsuit. Once the victim becomes aware of the individual’s identity, he or she must amend the complaint to include the individual’s name within 30 days.
Pursuing a criminal sex offense charge
The state prosecutor files all state criminal charges. Therefore, the first step for victims who wish to report a sex offense is to notify law enforcement and inform them that the crime has taken place. Law enforcement will then investigate, and the prosecutor may file criminal charges against the person who is accused of committing the crime (if the individual’s identity is known).
If the prosecutor files charges, the accused will be informed of the charges and will have an opportunity to present a legal defense in court. If you have been notified of a potential investigation or pending sex crime charges against you, now is the time to consult an attorney.
Contact an experienced Texas sex crime defense attorney
If you are facing a sex crime charge, you need the help of a seasoned attorney. Contact a Texas attorney who is well-versed in Texas’ sex crime laws to learn more about your legal options. It is always better to contact one as early as possible to potentially avoid unnecessary damage to your reputation and to protect your rights.
Hiring a defense attorney earlier also has other advantages, including an increased likelihood of finding evidence and witnesses who can help establish your case.