A statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time for filing a claim or a criminal prosecution. The statute sets the maximum amount of time after an event during with legal proceedings may be initiated. After the maximum amount of time, a claim may no longer be filed (or if it is filed, it is likely to be struck down by the court as time-barred).

Are There Statutes of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Crimes in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, there are statutes of limitations that apply to crimes of sexual abuse. This means that there are time limitations on when you can both prosecute and sue in civil court for sexual abuse, and the statute for civil suits is strict.

Because the statute of limitations can completely bar your claim if you file after the time limit, it is important to be mindful of the passage of time when thinking about pursuing a case.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the criminal statute of limitations that applies in your case is the version of the statute that was in place at the time the crime occurred. While the laws may have been updated to extend the time period since the crime occurred, if the limitation has run out, it cannot be reactivated.

In years past, Louisiana’s laws gave shorter time periods to report the abuse, so it would be in your best interests to consult with a qualified lawyer to determine which rule applies to your case and whether your time limit has expired.

What is a Civil Lawsuit for Sexual Abuse?

The statute of limitations in civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse can be a tight timeline. If you are attempting to sue an abuser for damages in civil court, you must act within the time limit–one year after the date of the discovery of the abuse, or one year after your eighteenth birthday (whichever is the longer period).

While many states have a “delayed discovery rule” that takes into account instances when abuse can be “blocked out” in a victim’s mind, and not remembered for years, Louisiana is not one of those states. Unfortunately, Louisiana courts do not recognized blocked out or recovered memories in civil cases.

While this is the current state of affairs, this is a contentious issue that may be updated by the Louisiana legislature in the near future. However, you will still want to talk to a Louisiana attorney to get the most current information about state laws, what requirements there are with regards to filing a civil suit, and how best to protect your rights in this instance.

Louisiana’s Criminal Prosecution for Sexual Abuse

Louisiana currently has a lengthy statute of limitations when it comes to sexual offenses. There is no statute of limitations on the crime of forcible rape (which means that there is no time limit on cases of this nature).

For sexual crimes involving minor victims (which include, but are not limited to, offenses that involve molestation, statutory rape, and incest), the statute of limitations runs out 30 years after the victim’s eighteenth birthday.

If the victim is still under the control or fiduciary responsibility of their abuser, the statute of limitations can be even longer, not running until the victim is no longer under the influence of their abuser.

Are There Any Exceptions to The Statute of Limitations in Louisiana?

It depends on the circumstances of the case, but there might be. In cases where the statute of limitations would bar a criminal prosecution, the suspect can still be prosecuted within three years after their identity has been established by DNA testing.

For example, if a case has gone cold and is now outside of the statute of limitations, but a suspect has been discovered by new DNA evidence, the clock starts ticking again. However, the prosecution must start their case within three years of identifying the suspect.

Another exception includes the flight or mental capacity of the suspect or defendant. Under Louisiana statutes, the statute of limitations is interrupted when the defendant goes on the lam, flees the state, or lacks the mental capacity to proceed at trial. The clock will resume running if and when the defendant re-enters the state or regains their mental capacity.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Louisiana Statutes of Limitations?

In many cases, victims of sexual abuse are ashamed or frightened to testify against their attacker, and once they make the decision to testify, it may be too late. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

A qualified local attorney can help you talk through what happened, file suit against your abuser and the people who enabled your abuser, and work to protect your rights while you navigate the court system.

They can also talk to you about the statute of limitations, so that you understand the timeline and what needs to happen as soon as possible. However, you don’t want to wait too long, as time is of the essence. Talk to an experienced Louisiana lawyer today for more information.