Before providing any specific information on the New York statutes of limitations for sexual abuse in both civil and criminal cases, it may be useful to know exactly what a statute of limitations is first. In general, a statute of limitations is a type of law which prescribes how long a person has to file a legal claim or press charges against another party whom they believe has wronged them.

A statute of limitations may apply to either civil or criminal cases. However, the time limits prescribed by a statute of limitations will often vary based on the type of legal action being filed as well as on the state in which a legal action is filed. Accordingly, the state of New York has two separate statutes of limitations for sexual abuse crimes: one for civil lawsuits, and the other for criminal cases.

The statute of limitations for a civil sexual abuse case will determine the amount of time that a victim of sexual abuse has to file a civil lawsuit against their sexual abuser. Although a civil lawsuit will not result in punishments like prison or restitution, it will allow a victim of sexual abuse to recover damages from their sexual abuser to compensate them for any harm they suffered due to an abuser’s actions.

On the other hand, a statute of limitations for a criminal case will set the period of time that a prosecutor has to file criminal charges against an alleged sexual abuser. For example, the statute of limitations for statutory rape in New York is twenty years for second-degree rape and ten years for rape in the third degree.

Briefly, an abuser can be charged with second or third-degree rape in New York State if the victim cannot provide consent due to their age or incapacity.

This means that a prosecutor will have twenty years to bring charges against a sexual abuser who commits second-degree rape. Or, they will have ten years to bring charges against a sexual abuser who commits rape in the third degree. In contrast, there is no statute of limitations for the crime of rape in the first degree or for predatory sexual assault against a child in New York State.

To learn more about the laws and timing requirements to file a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse claims, you should speak to a New York lawyer as soon as possible. On the other hand, if you wish to press charges against a sexual abuser, you should contact your local law enforcement office who will then forward your case to the closest District Attorney’s office in the county where you reside in New York State to determine if they can file charges against your abuser.

Civil Lawsuits

The Times Up movement prompted legislatures from several states around the country to impose temporary suspensions on statutes of limitations for claims of sexual abuse. In mid-February of 2019, the New York State legislature passed a new law called the Child Victims Act (“CVA”).

The law not only extended the statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits involving claims of sexual abuse, but also provided a one-year window for adult victims to file such claims.

The CVA has since been extended twice since it was passed due to the pandemic and court shutdowns in New York. The CVA eventually expired in August of 2021, leaving no way for victims of previously time-barred crimes to take advantage of the opportunity to sue their abuser. Recognizing the importance of the cause, the New York State Senate proposed a bill known as the Adults Survivors Act.

The Adult Survivors Act would re-open the possibility for adult victims of sexual abuse to bring a claim within a one-year window; similar to the one provided in the CVA. As of late September 2021, the proposed bill has been unanimously passed by the Senate, but it is still pending in the Assembly and awaiting to be delivered and signed by the governor of New York State.

Accordingly, the statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits involving sexual abuse claims stands as what is permitted by the CVA for such actions. This means that sexual abuse victims of 55 years of age or younger may still file a civil lawsuit for damages against their sexual abuser in New York State. However, victims who are older than 55 years of age will be barred from filing a civil lawsuit against their abuser for now and until a new law is passed.

Criminal Cases

As mentioned above, the state of New York assigns time limits that correspond with the degree of sexual abuse that was committed (e.g., twenty years for second-degree rape). Under the CVA, a victim of sexual abuse can request that a prosecutor from the New York District Attorney’s office file felony charges against an abuser on their behalf until they reach the age of 28 years old.

As for sexual abuse crimes that amount to misdemeanor offenses, a sexual abuse victim will have until they turn 25 years of age to ask a prosecutor to press charges. The one exception in New York State is if a victim of sexual abuse was younger than 11 years old when the abuse occurred, then there is no statute of limitations to bring charges against the sexual abuser. This means that a victim will have an unlimited amount of time to file a sexual abuse claim in criminal court.

The process for filing for sexual abuse claims in criminal court will require a victim of sexual abuse to report the crime to the authorities wherein the claim will be evaluated and sent to the New York District Attorney’s office. A district attorney or prosecutor will then be assigned to the case. The district attorney will review the law enforcement report that they receive as well as any evidence that was submitted by the police or the victim.

After they analyze the file that was sent to them by law enforcement, the district attorney will decide whether or not to press charges against the suspected sexual abuser. If the district attorney decides to file charges against a sexual abuser, they will need to appear in criminal court and proceed to trial unless they are given the option of entering into a plea deal.

In some instances, there may not be enough evidence to prosecute a sexual abuser. In which case, they may not face any criminal penalties.

Do I Need an Attorney?

It is strongly recommended that a person who is facing charges and a possible conviction in New York State for committing a crime that involves sexual abuse to hire a New York criminal lawyer to represent them as soon as possible. A lawyer who is both based in New York State and who has experience in handling criminal defense cases will be able to help you build a solid defense and can argue that defense on your behalf in criminal court.

Alternatively, you may want to consider hiring a New York lawyer if you are a victim of sexual abuse and would like to sue your sexual abuser for damages in civil court. A New York lawyer who handles civil sexual abuse matters will be able to inform you of your rights as a victim and can ensure that there is still time for you to file a claim.

In addition, your lawyer can provide legal representation in civil court as well as can assist you in recovering other legal remedies.