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. Maine has different criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations.

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 cannot renew time-barred cases.  For this reason, it is important that sexual abuse charges are filed quickly. (Prompt investigation may also lead to a more successful prosecution.)

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.

In Maine, there is no statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims. In other words, a victim of childhood abuse may file a civil lawsuit against an abuser or a negligent organization at any time. In cases involving adults, a two-year SOL applies in assault and battery claims.

If sexual abuse occurs at your workplace, you may also have a sexual harassment claim under state and federal law. You must file a federal 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.  If you need help with a sexual harassment case, consider contacting a personal injury or employment lawyer.

Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse

Criminal cases are filed by the State of Maine 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.

Maine does not have a criminal statute of limitations for most sexual crimes, including:

  • Child sexual abuse,
  • Incest,
  • Rape,
  • Gross sexual assault, and
  • Unlawful sexual contact.

Other Class A, B, and C felonies have a six-year SOL. Class D felonies and misdemeanors have a three-year statute. If you need help determining the correct statute of limitations in your case, contact law enforcement immediately. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

It’s not easy to file a sexual abuse lawsuit. These cases are emotionally difficult and often involve a detailed legal analysis and strict procedural rules. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, hire the necessary experts, educate you about your rights, and offer emotional support.

Victims should also file criminal charges with a law enforcement agency. Too often, sex crimes go unreported. A prosecutor can hold your abuser criminally accountable.If you are facing sexual abuse charges and prosecution, a criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your rights. Time is of the essence, so talk to an attorney as soon as possible.