A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit for charging someone with a crime. The statute of limitations is different in each state, and it is different for each type of charge. If you're a New Jersey resident and you think that you could be accused of child sex abuse, then you need to know more about the statute of limitations and how that might affect you.
How Long Is the Statute of Limitations in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for a general sexual assault charge is unlimited. There's no time limit, so a sexual assault charge can be filed at any time, even decades after the crime is committed. However, this is only for general sexual assault charges. When a minor is involved, the charges and the statute of limitations are different.
A charge of criminal sexual conduct with a minor (either felony or misdemeanor) must be filed within five years of the time the victim turns 18 years old, so essentially by the victim's 23rd birthday. However, charges can also be filed within two years after the victim discovers the crime. For example, if a victim realizes at age 30 that they were sexually abused as a child, then charges can be filed until the victim is age 32. These same time limits apply to charges of endangering the welfare of a child.
What Has to Happen to Trigger the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations applies to filing criminal charges. As long as the charges are actually filed before the statute of limitations expires, then a plea bargain, trial, or conviction can happen any time after that. An offender does not have to be convicted before the statute of limitations expires; they only have to be charged.
Does the Clock Run From the Date of Offense?
In many types of cases, the statute of limitations depends on when the crime was committed. However, sexual abuse cases involving minors are different. They are not based on when the crime was committed. Instead, the statute of limitations is based on the age of the victim. Charges can be filed until the victim turns 23 OR within two years of the time the victim discovers the abuse, whichever is later. In this sense, it doesn't matter whether the offense occurs once, several times, or over an extended period of time.
An accusation of sexual abuse against a child can be devastating for everyone involved, and it can have massive, lifelong repercussions. If you have been accused of child sexual abuse, you need Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team on your side to guide you through this process and protect you.