Statute of Limitations for Sexual Battery
In Florida, the statute of limitations is an absolute bar to the filing of a legal case after a date set by the law. The date is usually based on the time that has elapsed since the offense was committed or the action giving rise to the case occurred.
Florida law has created statutes of limitation identifying when the time period begins, how long the limitations period runs, and circumstances by which the running of the statutes may be tolled or suspended.
When the Florida legislature changes the statute to extend the statute of limitations, the prohibition on ex-post facto laws in the state and federal constitutions applies. That means that a new law that extends a statute of limitations may only delay the conclusion of the limitations period, but it cannot revive a previously time-barred action. So if the limitations period on a case has already expired, then any extension created by the new legislation will not serve to revive the action.
Attorneys on the Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes in Florida
If you have questions about the statute of limitations as it applies to criminal charges for sexual battery or rape in Florida, then contact criminal defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, FL, at Meltzer & Bell.
With offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, the attorneys at Meltzer & Bell represent clients charged with felonies for sexually motivated crimes throughout Broward County, Palm Beach County, and the surrounding areas in south Florida.
Call (954) 765-6585 today to discuss your case.
Florida’s 43 Days Initiative Act
On June 11, 2015, Florida’s Governor signed the “43 Days Initiative Act” into law. The title of the bill comes from a Florida resident who claimed to be a victim of a sexual battery.
In that case, the victim claimed to be unaware of the four-year criminal statute of limitations and waited to report the crime to law enforcement until four years and 43 days after the crime. Because of the delay, no charges could be brought against the offender because of Florida’s four-year statute of limitations for sexual battery. That example was used as a basis to support the “43 Days Initiative Act.”
Criminal Statutes of Limitation Applicable to Sexual Battery
Section 794.011, F.S., identifies numerous sexual battery crimes (often called “rape”). Section 775.15, F.S., sets forth the statutes of limitation applicable to criminal prosecutions for sexual battery and provides that the time for prosecution of a criminal case starts to run on the day after the offense is committed.
An offense is deemed to have been committed either when every element of the offense has occurred, or, if the legislative purpose to prohibit a continuing course of conduct plainly appears, at the time when the course of conduct or the defendant’s duplicity in the course of conduct is terminated.
Under Florida law, there was no statute of limitations for first-degree felony sexual battery crimes where the victim is a minor. There is a statute of limitations for any sexual battery crime where the victim is under 16 years old. Only two sexual battery offenses where the victim is a minor aged 16 or 17 years have an applicable three-year statute of limitations under current law:
- sexual battery without the use physical force and violence likely to cause serious personal injury – a second-degree felony; and
- solicitation of sexual battery by a person in a position of familial or custodial authority to a person less than 18 years of age – a third-degree felony.
For these two offenses, the applicable statute of limitations does not begin until the earlier of the date that the minor reaches 18 years of age or the crime is reported to law enforcement. Also, if the sexual battery is charged as a first-degree or second-degree felony and is reported to law enforcement within 72 hours after the commission of the crime, then no statute of limitations applies.
In cases of sexual battery crimes against victims 18 years of age or older, current law provides that if the offense is reported to law enforcement within 72 hours of the offense, there is no statute of limitations. If the offense is not reported within 72 hours, the statute of limitations is either four years for first-degree felony sexual battery or three years for second-degree felony sexual battery.
In addition to the time periods for minors and adults, a person accused of such a crime may be prosecuted within one year after the date on which the identity of the offender is established, or should have been established by the exercise of due diligence, through the analysis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence.
This rule applies if a sufficient portion of the evidence collected at the time of the original investigation and tested for DNA is preserved and available for testing by the accused.
Statute of Limitations for Sexual Battery is Extended to Eight Years
Under the “43 Days Initiative Act,” the Florida legislature amended the statute of limitations applicable to sexual battery criminal cases charged under Florida Statute Section 775.15, F.S., to provide that the statute of limitations for first-degree or second-degree sexual battery committed against a victim 16 years of age or older is extended to 8 years from the date of the crime, except as otherwise provided in current law.
The provision providing for no statute of limitations when the crime is reported within 72 hours of its commission is retained in law. This change in Florida law applies to any such offense except one already time-barred on or before July 1, 2015. This provision makes the change retroactive to previously committed offenses, provided that the statute of limitations did not run out of time prior to July 1, 2015.
Florida’s Statute of Limitations for Sexual Battery and Rape – Visit the website of the Broward County Bar Association to find an article explaining “Florida’s 2015 Legislative Changes: Overview of Relevant New Laws.” The article explains how the statute of limitation for sexual battery and rape cases has been extended from 4 to 8 years for victims that are 16 years of age or older when the underlying offense was allegedly committed in the State of Florida.
Florida Statute Section 775.11 – Visit Florida’s Online Sunshine website to find the statutory language in Florida Statute Section 775.15 to learn more about how the statute of limitations applies to criminal cases in Florida, including sex crime cases such as sexual battery, rape, lewd and lascivious exhibition and child molestation.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, October 27, 2021.