Statute of limitations refers to state statutes specifying the amount of time in which a plaintiff can file a civil lawsuit. It can also refer to the amount of time in which a prosecutor may file a criminal complaint against a defendant. A statute of limitations places a time limit on the plaintiff by establishing a deadline; if enough time has passed, the plaintiff or criminal prosecutor will be barred from bringing their case against the defendant.
One significant purpose of a statute of limitation is to protect the defendant from any untimely litigation. It also forces a plaintiff with a valid cause of action to bring their claim in a timely manner. This is because untimely claims could result in loss of necessary evidence that the defendant could use to defend themselves against the plaintiff’s claim. And, if a long-dormant claim is litigated, it generally ends in more cruelty than justice.
Are There Statutes of Limitations on Sexual Abuse Crimes in Louisiana?
Generally speaking, criminal sexual abuse is defined as any sexual act committed with the intent to abuse, harass, humiliate, or degrade another person. The laws regarding criminal sexual abuse are heavily dependent on each state’s statutes of limitations. Additionally, state laws applying to criminal sexual abuse will typically vary based on the victim’s age.
Louisiana statute of limitations do apply to crimes involving sexual abuse. This means that there are time limitations in which a person could both prosecute and sue in court for that sexual abuse. The criminal statute of limitations that will likely apply to your case will be the version of the statute in place at the time the crime occurred. Although the laws may have been updated in order to extend the time period once the crime has occurred, the old limitation cannot be reactivated if it has run out.
As of March 2020, the Louisiana statutes of limitations (specifically the rape statute of limitations) varies with each degree of rape. First degree, or aggravated rape, has no statute of limitations. Neither does second degree rape. The Louisiana statute of limitation for third degree rape is within six years of the offense. There are various other statutes of limitation for sexual assault in Louisiana, depending on the specific offense.
What Is a Civil Lawsuit on Sexual Abuse in Louisiana?
Sexual abuse victims have the right to sue their abuser in civil court in order to potentially recover damages. In criminal court, a prosecutor handles the case, and the defendant could receive prison time. It is important to note that personal injury law does not have a sexual abuse cause of action; as such, a planitfiff would need to file a civil lawsuit on sexual abuse based on assault, battery, and/or the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The statute of limitations in civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse in Louisiana can minimal. If you would like to sue an abuser for damages in civil court, the time limit is one year after the date of the discovery of the abuse, or, one year after your eighteenth birthday; whichever is the longer period.
Many states maintain a “delayed discovery rule,” which considers instances in which abuse is“blocked out” in a victim’s mind and not remembered for years. Unfortunately, Louisiana courts do not recognize blocked out or recovered memories in civil cases. This is a contentious issue that could be updated by the Louisiana legislature at a later date.
Louisiana’s Criminal Prosecution for Sexual Abuse
As previously mentioned, there is no statute of limitations in the crime of forcible rape. The statute of limitations on rape in Louisiana does not exist until rape is considered to be in the third degree. For sexual crimes involving minor victims, the statute of limitations runs out thirty years after the victim’s eighteenth birthday.
Such crimes include, but are not limited to, offenses involving molestation, statutory rape, and incest. If the victim is still under the control or fiduciary responsibility of their abuser, the statute of limitations could be even longer. The statute of limitations may not begin until the victim is no longer under the influence of their abuser.
Are There Any Exceptions to The Statute of Limitations in Louisiana?
As more people are demanding justice for sexual abuse, many states are lifting their statute of limitations for sexual abuse. Louisiana has all but done the same, given the fact that there is not statute of limitations until rape reaches the third degree. In cases where the statute of limitations prevents a criminal prosecution, the suspect may still be prosecuted within three years after their identity has been established by DNA testing.
An example of this would be if a case has gone cold and is now outside of the statute of limitations. A suspect has been discovered by new DNA evidence, and as such, the statute of limitations resets. On the other hand, the prosecution must begin their case within three years of identifying the suspect.
Another example of an exception would be the flight, or mental capacity, of the suspect or defendant. Under Louisiana statutes, situations where the defendant goes on the lam, flees the state, or lacks the mental capacity to proceed at trial will interrupt the statute of limitations. It will resume if and when the defendant either re-enters the state or regains their mental capacity and can proceed at trial.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Louisiana Statutes of Limitations?
If you have been sexually abused, it is imperative that you consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal attorney. Victims of sexual abuse may be ashamed or frightened to testify against their attacker, and once they make the decision to testify, the statute of limitations has run out.
An experienced criminal attorney can help you talk through what happened, as well as file a civil suit against your abuser and any people who enabled your abuser. An attorney will also inform you of your state’s statute of limitations. Additionally, an attorney can work to protect your rights while you navigate the court system.