Different crimes and offenses have different time limits in which the state may criminally prosecute a defendant. These time limits are referred to as Statutes of Limitations. Generally, once a statute of limitation has elapsed, the state can no longer criminally charge a defendant for the crime. Some offenses have relatively short statutes of limitations. At the same time, other crimes may be so severe or heinous that there are no statutes of limitations and charges could be brought at any time. Sexual assault is a very serious offense in New Jersey and has its own set of rules regarding a statute of limitations. Read on to learn more about the statute of limitations for sexual assault in New Jersey from our Atlantic City sexual assault defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych.
Statutes of Limitation in NJ Criminal Cases Explained
As stated above, a statute of limitations is a rule which states how long the state may wait to bring criminal charges against a defendant. Statutes of limitations are important because, while many crimes take time to investigate, the government should not be allowed to prosecute someone when too much time has elapsed since the crime. Different states may have different statutes of limitations for each offense. Generally, more serious offenses tend to have longer statutes of limitations. Sexual assault, however, is perceived as very serious and therefore does not have a statute of limitations. A sexual assault crime may be charged at any time, no matter how many years have passed.
If you have been charged with a crime and believe the statute of limitations for your alleged offense has expired, you should immediately contact a Wildwood sexual assault defense attorney. Circumstances may exist that resulted in the time limit being tolled or adjusted, and you may still be prosecuted. However, if the statute of limitations has truly expired, you may have grounds to have the case against you dismissed.
How Long Can I Be Charged With Sexual Assault in NJ?
The definition for sexual assault in New Jersey can be found under § 2C:14-2 of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice. Sexual assault encompasses a number of different acts and may be committed under a variety of different circumstances. Sexual assault is typically charged as a second-degree crime, but aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree crime. In either case, the criminal act usually requires some form of sexual penetration and a lack of consent from the victim.
Due to the very serious nature of this crime, sexual assault has no statute of limitation. According to § 2C:1-6 of The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, a prosecution for sexual assault may be commenced at any time. Most other crimes have statutes of limitations of 5 years. Sexual assault, however, can be prosecuted over 5 years after the crime. Under the law, it could be prosecuted any number of years after the crime. This lack of a time limit is especially helpful for prosecutors and law enforcement because it is not unusual for sexual assault survivors to resist reporting the crime to the police. Sometimes police do not learn about a sexual assault until years after the fact.
A statute of limitations would also make it difficult for children who are victims of sexual abuse or a sexual assault to come forward and report the incident. Children are often unable to report the crime without an adult’s assistance, and children are also very often afraid to tell anyone about the assault or abuse. Many child victims do not come forward until they are adults.
What if My Sexual Assault Charges are From a Long Time Ago in NJ?
While the crime of sexual assault has no statute of limitations today, this was not always the case. In the past, sexual assault charges were subjected to a statute of limitation and would eventually be time barred. However, after the statute of limitations was removed, the New Jersey legislature decided that all sexual assault crimes, no matter how old, should face prosecution. In New Jersey, it does not matter how long ago the alleged sexual assault occurred. The indefinite statute of limitation on sexual assault was made retroactive. This means sexual assault crimes that may have been previously time barred under old statutes of limitations are no longer barred. In about 2001, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill that included a provision making the statute of limitations on sexual assault, or the lack thereof, retroactive. Older sexual assault offenses, even decades old offenses, can now be prosecuted even if they were previously off limits.
As of today, it does not matter when you allegedly committed sexual assault. It could have been one year ago or twenty years ago. You may still be charged. For help with your case, reach out to our qualified Brigantine sexual assault defense attorney to figure out how to fight your sexual assault charges. Just because the charges you face are old does not mean that you are guaranteed to be less likely to face a conviction without the help of an experienced Sea Isla City sexual assault defense lawyer.
Contact Our NJ Sexual Assault Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been charged with sexual assault in New Jersey, contact our Atlantic City criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Contact our legal team by calling (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation regarding your case.