A statute of limitations (SOL) sets the amount of time a victim or prosecutor has to file a lawsuit. Typically, if you file a lawsuit after the SOL expires, your case will be dismissed. In Arizona, there are different statutes of limitations for civil and criminal sexual abuse claims.
It is important to report sexual abuse as quickly as possible. Courts typically apply the statute of limitations that existed at the time of the abuse. This means that even though the SOL may have been lengthened since the incident, it typically will not renew time-barred cases. Additionally, a prompt investigation may lead to stronger evidence in your case—resulting in jail time for your abuser and compensation for your injuries.
Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse
In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual abuse demands compensation and damages from his or her abuser. You may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for your pain and suffering.
Unlike many states, Arizona does not have a special statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse cases. Instead, the standard personal injury SOL is applied. Sexual abuse claims must be filed within:
- Two years of the act, or
- Within two years of the victim’s 18th birthday (for childhood sexual abuse claims).
If sexual abuse occurs at your workplace, you may also have a sexual harassment lawsuit under federal law. You must file a complaint (or charge) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the sexual abuse or harassment.
The EEOC will investigate your claim and determine whether it will pursue a lawsuit on your behalf. If it decides not to litigate your claim, it will issue a Right to Sue letter. You must file a lawsuit within 90 days of the EEOC’s Right to Sue letter.
Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse
Criminal cases are filed by the State of Arizona on behalf of a victim. In order to file criminal charges, you must notify law enforcement of the sexual abuse. The authorities will investigate your claims and a prosecutor may file charges against your abuser. If a suspect is found guilty of criminal conduct, he or she may be sentenced to significant jail time and sex offender registration.
In Arizona, there is not a statute of limitations for:
- Violent sexual abuse, and
- Sexual assault involving a child under the age of 15.
Other Class 2-6 felonies must be filed within seven years of the offense. Misdemeanor offenses must be filed within a year. However, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until a perpetrator has been identified. If you need help understanding the SOL in your case, contact law enforcement immediately.
Other Compensation for Sex Abuse Victims
The State of Arizona offers up to $25,000 in crime victim compensation for related medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses. However, it also has reporting and filing deadlines for crime victim compensation claims. Typically, you must report the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours and apply for benefits within two years of discovering the crime.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Yes. Sexual assault and abuse claims are emotionally difficult. They also involve detailed legal analysis and strict procedural rules. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, educate you about your rights, and offer emotional support. You also should file criminal charges with a law enforcement agency. If you are facing sexual abuse charges and prosecution, a criminal lawyer can help you understand your rights. Time is of the essence, so talk to an attorney as soon as possible.