Statute of Limitations for Sex Offenses in Pennsylvania

A statute of limitations sets forth a specific time period in which a criminal charge must be brought after it allegedly occurred. If the Pennsylvania prosecutor fails to bring charges within the time period set by state law, the charge cannot be filed against a person. This is designed to prevent charges from being levied many years after an offense, when most of the evidence and witnesses are likely gone are difficult to remember. These limitation periods are designed to protect the rights of American citizens from improper prosecution.

If you are charged with a sex offense in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney will defend your case and your constitutional rights. Just because you are charged with a crime does not mean that you are guilty.

Philadelphia Sex Offense Defense Attorney

With many years of experience working in different roles in the Pennsylvania justice system, Joseph Lento is a uniquely qualified Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney with a comprehensive knowledge of how the criminal justice system works, from start to finish.

If you have been charged with a sex offense in Philadelphia or the rest of Pennsylvania and need a comprehensive, customized defense, contact the attorneys at Lento Law Firm. Joseph Lento built his practice on the ideals of customer service and justice and he will fight for your rights and freedom. Call (215) 535-5353 today to schedule your free consultation and discover what Joseph Lento can do to clear your name.

Standard Statute of Limitations

Under Pennsylvania law, at 18 PA. CONS. STAT § 5552, unless a different time is otherwise set by the law, a prosecution for a criminal offense must be commenced within two (2) years after it has been committed. This means that if a crime was committed on January 1, 2019, then the prosecution for that crime must be commenced by January 1, 2021.

This does not mean, however, that the crime must be finished in the prosecution process by that time. It only means that the Pennsylvania prosecutor must begin the proceedings against you by that time. Otherwise, if the two year limitation period applies, the case may not be brought forward.

Sexual Offense Statute of Limitations

Under the same Pennsylvania law that sets forth the two-year statute of limitations for most offenses, there is a section that carves out special time periods for certain sex offenses. This means that a longer period of time applies to these charges in which the prosecutor can still bring the charge against you.

Any of the following offenses are held to a twelve (12) year statute of limitations, considerably longer than the standard two (2) year limit:

  • Section 3121 (relating to rape).
  • Section 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault).
  • Section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse).
  • Section 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault).
  • Section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault).
  • Section 4302 (relating to incest).
  • Section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children).

If any of these charges apply to your case, you are subject to this twelve (12) year statute of limitations period. This means that if one of these crimes was allegedly committed on January 1, 2019, then the prosecutor would have until January 1, 2031, to file charges.

This means that an alleged crime that occurred over a decade ago could be levied against you. This can make it difficult to defend your case without the right attorney by your side. However, it can also make it very difficult for the prosecutor to prove his or her case if you put up a strong defense.

Statute of Limitations Exceptions

Certain exceptions may apply in a sex offense case that can extend the statute of limitations period.

Public Officer or Employee

If a sex offense is committed by a public officer or employee in the course of or in connection with his or her office or employment, the time period extends to any time he or she is in office, or for five (5) years thereafter, never to exceed a total of eight (8) years.

Sex Offense Against a Minor

If a sex offense is committed against a minor less than 18 years of age, the time period does not begin to run until the individual reaches the age of 18, and the time period is the later of the expiration of that time period or when the child reaches the age of 50 years old. This means that a sexual offense against a child could have an incredibly long statute of limitations.

Under this section, a sexual offense includes:

  • Section 3011(b) (relating to trafficking in individuals).
  • Section 3012 (relating to involuntary servitude) as it relates to sexual servitude.
  • Section 3121 (relating to rape).
  • Section 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault).
  • Section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse).
  • Section 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault).
  • Section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault).
  • Section 3126 (relating to indecent assault).
  • Section 3127 (relating to indecent exposure).
  • Section 4302 (relating to incest).
  • Section 4304 (relating to endangering the welfare of children).
  • Section 6301 (relating to corruption of minors).
  • Section 6312(b) (relating to sexual abuse of children).
  • Section 6320 (relating to sexual exploitation of children).

This greatly expands the types of "sex offense" crimes that could be included in the list of a lengthened statute of limitations. If you face any of these charges, it is crucial that you put up a powerful defense of your case.

How to Defend Your Case

With the help of an experienced Pennsylvania defense lawyer at your side, you can create a legal defense that is specific to the facts of your individual case. Some defenses that may be possible include, but are not limited to:

  • You did not commit the offense of which you are accused
  • The statute of limitations period has expired
  • No exceptions apply to lengthen the statute of limitations period

Consult a Pennsylvania Sex Offense Defense Attorney

If you or someone you care about faces sex offense charges in Pennsylvania, an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney can fight for your rights. Joseph D. Lento has the years of experience necessary to protect your rights.

Call (888) 535-3686 or contact us online today to schedule a consultation of your case.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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