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What is the Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes in Pennsylvania?

March 02, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A man was recently charged with several sex crimes in Pennsylvania. While this is not all that surprising, as sex crimes happen every day in the state, what is interesting in this story is that the charges come 21 years after the alleged crimes. A woman accused the man of sexual assault, rape, and other crimes in early November and now, he is in custody.

Many people wonder how the man could still face charges so many years after his alleged acts. Pennsylvania’s criminal statute of limitations though, sometimes allows a person to be charged with certain crimes, even decades after an alleged offense.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations places a certain time limit on when a person can face charges after allegedly committing a crime. The prosecution must file charges against a person before the statute of limitations expires, although the case does not have to be resolved by that time. The statute of limitations is intended to protect the rights of the American people from unfair prosecution.

The General Statute of Limitations

In most cases, the statute of limitations on criminal offenses is two years from the date the offense was allegedly committed. The statute of limitations applies to most felonies and misdemeanors. Summary offenses, which include traffic violations, have a statute of limitations of 30 days after the offense was allegedly committed, or from the date of discovering the offender’s identity.

Some criminal offenses fall outside this statute of limitations. For example, there is no statute of limitations placed on murder, and theft crimes typically have a statute of limitations of five years from the date of the alleged crime. In the case of sex crimes, the statute of limitations changes depending on the victim’s age at the time of the offense.

The Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes

Sex crimes have a different statute of limitations than most other crimes in the state. When a person is accused of raping someone over the age of 18 years old, the statute of limitations is 12 years after the crime was committed. Meanwhile, rape and sexual assault of a minor does not have a time limit, meaning a person could face charges at any time. It is for this reason the man in the most recent story still faced charges so long after the alleged offense.

Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers can Help with Your Case

If you or someone you love has been charged with a sex crime, it is imperative that you speak to a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know the defenses to use in these cases and will use the appropriate one based on the facts of your case. When you need the best chance of beating your charges, call us at (215) 486-0123 or fill out our online form to schedule a meeting with one of our skilled attorneys.



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