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Statute of Limitations for Texas Sex Crimes

After a prosecution is initiated in Texas, it is important to determine whether the criminal prosecution was initiated during the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is particularly important in sexually motivated offenses. The Texas Legislature has recently expanded the statute of limitations for certain types of sex crimes.

Under Texas law, a statute of limitations claim is a defense that must be raised at or before the guilt or innocence stage of trial. Floyd v. State, 983 S.W.2d 273, 274 (Tex.Crim.App.1998) (citing Proctor v. State, 967 S.W.2d 840, 844 (Tex.Crim.App.1998)). In other words, the defendant must usually raise the limitations defense in the trial court and not for the first time on appeal after a conviction.

A defendant may assert the statute of limitations defense before trial by filing a motion to dismiss under article 27.08(2) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. At trial, if there is some evidence before the jury that the prosecution is barred by the statute of limitations, a defendant may assert the defense by requesting a jury instruction on limitations.

Call an attorney at Stuckle & Associates PLLC to discuss your criminal case and whether you have a defense related to the statute of limitations. The attorneys at Stuckle & Associates PLLC represent clients throughout Plano, TX, and the surrounding areas in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.


Purpose of the Statute of Limitations in Texas

Under Texas law, the intended purpose of a statute of limitations in criminal cases is to protect the accused from having to defend against stale criminal charges and to prevent punishment for crimes allegedly committed in the remote past.

The statutes of limitations in criminal cases is defined as the period within which criminal prosecutions must be initiated. In most criminal cases in Texas, the limitation period runs from the date the offense was committed until the date the indictment was presented or the date the complaint or information was filed.

After the indictment is presented or the complaint or information is filed, then requirements related to the statute of limitations either apply or do not. Any subsequent delays in the prosecution of the case are applicable to the defendant's statutory or constitutional rights to a speedy trial, but not to the statute of limitations. In other words, the right to a speedy trial is a separate issue from a prosecution initiated after the applicable statute of limitations.


History of the Statute of Limitations in Texas

The statute of limitations is a legislative creation. In Texas, there is no common-law requirement that the prosecution be initiated within a certain time period. Although the statute of limitations was once considered to be a requirement for the court to acquire jurisdiction, the law has evolved into viewing the statute of limitations as a defense that can be waived or forfeited by a defendant's failure to assert the statute of limitations either before or during trial.

The courts in Texas have found limitations on efforts by the Texas legislature to extend the limitation period if it expired prior to a legislative amendment. In other words, if the Texas legislature increases the limitation period, the extended period will not be applied retroactively to revive an offense that would have otherwise expired.


Felony vs. Misdemeanor Statute of Limitation Periods

The statute of limitation period varies depending on whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. More serious offenses usually have a longer statute of limitation period. Under Texas law, the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor is generally two years. Some felonies have a statute of limitation period of up to ten years.

  • Miscellaneous felonies: Three years
  • Arson crimes: Seven years
  • Forgery: 10 years
  • Theft crimes involving public officials: 10 years

Some of the most serious felony offenses in Texas have no statute of limitation period at all such as murder, manslaughter, and certain types of sexual assault offenses.


Determining the Statute of Limitations for Certain Sex Crimes

When determining what limitation period applies to a crime in Texas, it is important to realize that certain types of felonies have no limitation period, including sexual assault of child and indecency with child. The Texas legislature, in 2007, amended Article 12.01(1) so that no statute of limitation period applied to the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child victim or indecency with a child. The Texas legislature has also provided that there is no statute of limitations for continuous sexual abuse of a child. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 21.02 (Vernon 2003); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 12.01(1)(D) (Vernon 2005).


20-year Statute of Limitations from Victim's 18th birthday

When determining what limitation period applies, it is important to remember that for certain types of felonies, the statute of limitations is calculated from the victim's 18th birthday instead of when the offense actually occurred.

Article 12.05 (5) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows for a different statute of limitations to apply in certain types of felony cases. If the alleged victim of a crime is younger than 17 years of age at the time that the crime is committed, then the statute of limitations is 20 years from the date of the victim's 18th birthday for the following crimes:

  1. Sexual Performance by a Child;
  2. Aggravated Kidnapping under section 20.04(a)(4) if the defendant committed the offense “with the intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually";
  3. Burglary (if the crime is punishable under 30.02 (d) and the defendant committed the offense with the intent to commit sexual assault of a child; continuous sexual assault of a child; or aggravated kidnapping; with the intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually).

10-year Statute of Limitations from the Victim's 18th birthday

When determining what statute of limitation period applies, it is important to realize that certain felonies have a 10-year statute of limitation from victim's 18th birthday. The Texas Legislature, in 2011, created a category for limitations 10 years from the 18th birthday of the victim for the following offenses:

  1. human trafficking of children for non-sexual labor or services; and
  2. compelling prostitution of children.

The Texas legislature also applied this new statute of limitation classification for bigamy offenses involving a party younger than 18 years old. See Section 12.01.


5-year Statute of Limitations for Certain Sexual Assaults

Texas law contains a five-year limitation period for certain “sexual assault” charges other than sexual assault on a child (which has no limitation). The five-year limitation period also applies to the offense of aggravated sexual assault.


Finding an Attorney for the Statute of Limitation Defense in Texas

After a criminal charge is initiated in Texas, it must be determined whether the charge was filed within the applicable statute of limitation time period. The statute of limitation is particularly important in sexually motivated offenses in Texas such as indecency with a child, child molestation, child pornography, continuous child sex abuse, and aggravated sexual assault.

Call an attorney at Stuckle & Associates PLLC to discuss your criminal case and whether you have a defense related to the statute of limitations. The attorneys at Stuckle & Associates PLLC represent clients throughout Plano, TX, and the surrounding areas in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.