Statute of Limitations for Sexual Battery
Under Florida common law, no time limitation existed under which a criminal charge was barred from prosecution.
Time limitations for criminal prosecutions exist only as a creation of statute and are considered to be acts of grace by the State of Florida.
For example, in State v. Hickman, 189 So. 2d 254, 261-62 (Fla. 2d DCA 1966), the court stated:
The only purpose of a Statute limiting the time within which a criminal charge may be prosecuted is to protect every person from being interminably under the threat or cloud of possible criminal prosecution, which otherwise might be indefinitely delayed until the time when defense witnesses might die, disappear or otherwise become unavailable, judges would change office, or innumerable other time hazards might develop, which could conceivably defeat, or at least hamper, an otherwise good defense.
Id. Since the creation of statutes of limitation, courts held that “the statute of limitation that was in effect when a crime was committed controls” Beyer v. State, 76 So.3d 1132, 1134 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012).
The courts in Florida have acknowledged that the statutes of limitation in criminal cases should be construed liberally in favor of the defendant. Id.
Attorney on the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Battery in Tampa, FL
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients accused of sexually motivated crimes in Tampa, FL, including sexual battery and rape.
We welcome your calls to discuss the facts of your case and the best defenses.
Our criminal defense attorneys understand how the ex-post factor clause might apply to time limitations for sexually motivated crimes.
We welcome your calls. To talk to an experienced attorney, call 813-250-0500.
Impact of the Ex Post Facto Clause on Times Limitations
The Florida Legislature may apply time limitations retroactively without violating the ex post facto clause of the State Constitution, FLA. CONST. art. I, s. 10, if the Legislature makes the change before the prosecution is barred under the old statute and clearly demonstrates that the new statute applies to cases pending when the extension takes effect. See Schargschwerdt v. Kanerek, 553 So.2d 218, 220 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989).
In Florida, the courts recently upheld extensions of time limitations for sexual battery when the amendment takes effect before the case was procedurally barred. Brown v. State, 179 So. 3d 466, 468 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015).
For example, in Brown, the court affirmed the conviction for one count of sexual battery on a victim less than 16 years of age. In the Brown case, the abuse occurred between May 1997 and July 1998, but the abuse was not reported until November 15, 1999. The State brought charges against the defendant in 2011.
The statute of limitation in effect at the time of the offense would have barred prosecution in November 2003. However, the Florida Legislature amended the statute of limitations in October 2003 to provide no time limitation for the offense for which the defendant was charged. Because the case was not barred when the amended statute of limitations went into effect, the court held that the statute of limitation was properly extended and did not violate the ex post facto clause.
Section 775.15(3), F.S. states that the prosecution is barred if it is not commenced within the time limitations provided in this section. The time limitation for prosecuting a criminal case begins to run on the day after the offense is committed unless otherwise stated.
For purposes of determining the statute of limitations for sexual battery crimes in Florida, the offense is deemed to have been committed when either every element of the offense has occurred or if it plainly appears that the legislative purpose is to prohibit a continuing course of conduct, at the time when the course of conduct or the defendant’s complicity therein is terminated.
In part, s. 775.15, F.S., provides time limitations for initiating a criminal prosecution for a felony offense.
The general provisions provide that there is:
- No time limitation for prosecuting a capital felony, a life felony, a felony resulting in death as provided in Section 775.15(1), F.S.;
- A 4-year time limitation for prosecuting a first degree felony as provided in Section 775.15(2)(a), F.S.;
- A 3-year time limitation for prosecuting a second or third degree felony as provided in Section 775.15(2)(b), F.S.
Exceptions to Florida Statute of Limitations
Several exceptions to the time limitation provisions mentioned above exist under Florida law.
For sexual battery crimes in Florida, the exceptions are specific to certain offenses or types of victims, including:
- No time limitation for prosecuting:
- A first or second degree felony sexual battery when the victim is under 18 years of age and he or she reports the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours provided the offense was not barred from prosecution on or before December 31, 1984, as provided in Section 775.15(13)(a), F.S.;
- A first degree felony sexual battery when the victim is younger than 18 years of age provided the offense was not barred from prosecution on or before October 1, 2003, as provided in Section 775.15(13)(b), F.S.;
- Any felony sexual battery when the victim is younger than 16 years of age provided the offense was not barred from prosecution on or before July 1, 2010, as provided in Section 775.15(13)(c), F.S.;
- A first or second degree felony sexual battery when the victim is 16 years of age or older and reports the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours, as provided in Section 775.15(14)(a), F.S.
- An eight-year time limitation on prosecuting a first or second degree felony sexual battery when the victim is 16 years of age or older at the time of the offense provided the offense was not barred from prosecution on or before July 1, 2015, except for:
- A first or second degree felony sexual battery when the victim is 16 years of age or older and reports the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours; or
- A first degree felony sexual battery when the victim is younger than 18 years of age provided the offense was not barred from prosecution on or before October 1, 2003. See Section 775.15(14)(b), F.S.
Additionally, the prosecution for specific enumerated offenses, including sexual battery, may be prosecuted at any time after the date on which the offender’s identity is established, or should have been established through the exercise of due diligence, through the analysis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence collected at the time of the original investigation.
In addition to sexual battery, other types of enumerated offenses include Section 775.15(16)(a), F.S., which applies these provisions to the following offenses:
- aggravated battery or any felony battery offense under ch. 784, F.S.;
- kidnapping offenses under s. 787.01, F.S.;
- false imprisonment offenses under s. 787.02, F.S.;
- sexual battery offenses under ch. 794, F.S.;
- lewd or lascivious offenses under s. 800.04, F.S., s. 825.1025, F.S., or 847.0135(5), F.S.;
- burglary offenses under s. 810.02, F.S.;
- robbery offenses under s. 812.13, F.S., s. 812.131, F.S., or 812.135, F.S.;
- carjacking offenses under s. 812.133, F.S.;
- aggravated child abuse under s. 827.03, F.S.
The DNA sample for these prosecutions must be available for testing by the accused. See 18 Section 775.15(16)(a), F.S.
Under Section 775.15(13)(a), F.S., another exception provides that the applicable period of limitation does not begin to run until the victim of a sexual battery or other specified offense reaches the age of 18 years or the violation is reported to a law enforcement or governmental agency, whichever occurs first. This provision only applies to a victim younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offense.
The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Motivated Crimes in Florida – Find an article by an attorney in Tampa, FL, on how Florida’s statute of limitations applies to various sexually motivated crimes in Florida.
This article was last updated on Thursday, March 3, 2022.