The statute of limitations is a legal concept that is outlined in state statutes that provides the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a civil lawsuit or the amount of time a prosecutor has to file a criminal complaint against a defendant. If the statute of limitations has expired, the plaintiff or the prosecutor may be barred from bringing their case against a defendant.

The deadline for filing a lawsuit or criminal charges will vary depending on the type of lawsuit or charges that are being filed as well as the applicable state statutes. In the State of Michigan, there are different civil and criminal statutes of limitations for different criminal offenses.

Criminal statutes of limitations were created to establish a time limit specifically for criminal proceedings. The reasoning behind this is so that the prosecution can occur when the individual’s memories are still fresh and while evidence and witnesses are still available.

A criminal statute of limitations will typically begin running on the date that the crime was committed. If the time limit expires before criminal proceedings are started, the charges cannot be file and the defendant can request to have the case against them dismissed.

It is important to note, however, that there are certain criminal offenses that do not have a statute of limitations, for example, murder. The statute of limitations for most criminal cases in Michigan is 6 years.

However, criminal sexual conduct (CSC) cases are considered more serious and, therefore, have a longer statute of limitations. The Michigan CSC statute of limitations for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree cases is 10 years or by the alleged victim’s 21st birthday, whichever date comes later.

For a felony 1st degree CSC charge, there is no statute of limitations in Michigan.

When Does Time Begin to Run on Statute of Limitations?

The United States Supreme Court has held in numerous cases that the standard rule is that a statute of limitations will begin to run “when the plaintiff has a complete and present cause of action.” In most cases, the statute of limitations begins to run when the harmful event, for example, the injury or crime occurs or when the plaintiff discovers the injury, as in cases of fraud.

If a lawsuit is filed after the statute of limitations has expired, the claim will, most likely, be thrown out of a court on a motion from the defendant. In some cases, however, the clock may have been paused for a period of time, called “tolling the limitations.”

For example, in a criminal case where a defendant commits a crime and then flees, resulting in the individual becoming a fugitive of the state, the state will suspend the statute of limitations for the time that the fugitive was on the run. This means that a prosecutor can bring charges once the fugitive is caught, not counting the time they spend on the run.

In addition, in cases where a plaintiff is a minor, many states will allow tolling of the statute until the plaintiff reaches the age of majority in the state. In addition, in cases of private civil matters, a statute of limitations may be shortened or lengthened by an agreement of the parties involved.

Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse in Michigan

In civil lawsuits, the victim of sexual abuse demands compensation and damages. Civil cases may be filed against the abuser or the organization that failed to protect the victim, for example, a school or a church.

The victim may also be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for their pain and suffering. In contrast to many states, Michigan sexual abuse laws do not provide a special statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse cases.

Instead, the statute of limitations for standard personal injury cases is applied. A sexual abuse claim must be filed within:

  • 2 years of the act, if involving assault or battery,
  • 5 years of the act, if the perpetrator lived with the victim, or
  • By the victim’s 19th birthday, if they were under 18 years old at the time of the abuse.

If an individual is a victim of sexual abuse at work, they may have a sexual harassment claim under federal and state laws. In order to file a federal lawsuit, they must first make a complaint, or charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Their EEOC complaint must be filed within 300 days of the harassment or sexual abuse.

The EEOC will then investigate the individual’s claim and determine whether it will pursue a lawsuit on their behalf. If the EEOC determines that it will not litigate the claim, it will issue a Right to Sue letter.

A lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of receipt of the EEOC’s Right to Sue letter.

Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse in Michigan

In Michigan, criminal cases are filed on behalf of the victim by the State. In order for criminal charges to be filed, a victim must notify law enforcement of the criminal sexual abuse.

Law enforcement will investigate the claims and the prosecutor may file charges against the alleged abuser. If the defendant is found guilty of criminal conduct, they may face:

  • Significant jail time;
  • Electronic monitoring; and
  • Sex offender registration.

As noted above, there is no statute of limitations in Michigan for first-degree criminal conduct, such as that involving rape of a minor or violent rape. Other sexual abuse charges are required to be filed within 10 years or by the alleged victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later.

Cases that involve DNA evidence are required to be filed within 10 years of the identification of a suspect or by the victim’s 21st birthday.

What Happens if the Statute of Limitations Expires

When a defendant asserts that the statute of limitations has expired, they are raising an affirmative defense. If a defendant believes they are entitled to use this defense, they will petition for a dismissal of the case against them.

It is important to note that the defendant must raise this defense while the case is still pending and not after the case has been settled or completed. For example, if a defendant pleads guilty to a reduced charge only to learn afterwards that the statute of limitations had expired, they would not be able to go back and assert the defense of the statute of limitations being expired.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Claims of sexual assault and sexual abuse are emotionally challenging for a victim. These cases also involve detailed legal analyses and adherence to strict procedural rules.

If you are a victim of a sex crime, a Michigan lawyer can guide you through the civil lawsuit process, educate you about your rights, and offer you emotional support. You should also notify your local law enforcement agency of the offense so the perpetrator can be prosecuted.

If you are facing charges of a sex crime in Michigan, it is essential to have the assistance of a Michigan criminal lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights and whether there are any defenses available to you, such as the statute of limitations expiring.

These are serious charges that may have an effect on much more than your criminal record, such as your ability to get a job, your ability to have visitation or custody of your children, and even where you are allowed to live.