Statute of Limitations in Sexual Assault Cases


When people hear someone was arrested for a sexual offense crime that allegedly occurred 20 years ago, the logical question that comes to mind is “isn’t there a statute of limitations?”

The short and simple answer to this question is no and yes.

In North Carolina, a misdemeanor crime has a statute of limitations. The statute of limitation on a misdemeanor crime is 2 years. This means a person must be charged with the crime within 2 years of the alleged offense. For example, if an alleged unlawful touching (i.e., misdemeanor sexual battery) occurred on January 3, 2023, the person must be charged with the crime by January 3, 2025. Once January 3, 2025, arrives if the person is not formally charged with the crime a person can NOT be charged.

On the other hand, there is NO statute of limitations for felony crimes in North Carolina. This means a person can come forward and accuse someone of sexually abusing them 20 years prior and the person could be arrested/charged with a crime. For example, if someone went to law enforcement and reported they were sexually abused in 1995 authorities could still investigate and arrest the alleged perpetrator.


The statute of limitations starts from the date of the offense. Not from the time it’s reported or when the police get involved. Therefore, if an alleged offense occurs on March 1, 2021, and it is not reported until June 1, 2021, the statute of limitations runs on March 1, 2023.


  1. Cops are reaching out to me about something that alleged occurred 10 years ago, can I get charged with a crime after this many years have passed?
    • YES. In North Carolina, felony crimes do NOT have a statute of limitations. No matter if the alleged crime occurred 2 days ago or 20 years ago you can be charged with a felony crime.
  1. Someone is claiming I sexually abused them 20 years ago, should I contact a lawyer?
    • YES. Similar to above, you can be charged with a felony crime in North Carolina no matter how long ago the alleged conduct occurred. Sexual abuse cases are very serious and investigated toughly. Contact a lawyer immediately.
  1. A person alleged I inappropriately touched them over 3 years ago, but they just reported it to the police, can I be charged with misdemeanor sexual battery?
    • NO. Since the alleged conduct occurred more than 2 years ago the statute of limitations has run on a misdemeanor charge.


First, you should immediately contact a lawyer and schedule a consultation. The earlier in the process, your lawyer gets involved, the more they can fight for you and protect you. You do not need to talk to anyone without a lawyer. People often hurt and do damage to their cases before a lawyer ever gets involved. If you have a sexual allegation made against you, call Jetton and Meredith’s Criminal Law Team today to schedule your consultation.