Michigan Statute of Limitations
The Michigan statute of limitations for sexual assault varies depending on the severity of the crime and the victim’s age. These laws have undergone numerous changes in the past few years to offer more protection to victims and survivors. If you want to learn more about your rights and whether you can file a sex crime lawsuit in Michigan, continue reading.
A statute of limitations is the time frame you have to take legal action after wrongdoing. In sexual assault cases, the statute of limitations is the time a survivor has to file a civil claim for damages, or for a prosecutor to bring criminal charges against a perpetrator. These limitations are in place to prevent false convictions stemming from outdated evidence. Claims filed after the statute of limitations are typically barred from proceeding.
Michigan has enacted several laws in recent years to protect victims and survivors while holding institutions and abusers fully accountable. More recently, sexual assault laws changed after the sentencing of Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, in 2018 for his abuse of women and girls. Notably, state lawmakers extended the time that sexual assault survivors have to sue for damages. In 2023, there’s still a push to further extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases.
To understand these new changes to Michigan’s statute of limitations in detail, you can talk to a sexual assault lawyer for help. An attorney can offer support and discuss how the statute of limitations might impact your case.
What are the Statute of Limitations in Michigan?
The current statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit in Michigan is 10 years from the date of the sexual assault. Before the recent changes, the statute of limitations for all cases was three years after the incident.
However, people who experienced childhood sexual abuse now have until their 28th birthday to sue for damages, or three years after discovering injuries caused by criminal sexual conduct, whichever occurs later. Filing a claim past the statute of limitations is one of the common arguments that defense teams use to deny or reduce compensation amounts. It’s best to consult an attorney as soon as possible so you’re informed about your options and are empowered to take action should you choose to.
What are the Statutes of Limitations for Sex Crimes in Michigan?
There are also Michigan statutes of limitations for criminal cases that dictate how much time state prosecutors have to charge perpetrators with a sex crime. For these cases, time limits are influenced by the degree of criminal sexual conduct and whether the victim was a minor when the abuse occurred.
There’s no time limit for first-degree sexual conduct, and prosecutors can bring forth criminal cases decades after the assault happened. For the second and third-degree levels involving a minor, the time limits are 15 years or by the victim’s 28th birthday, whichever is later. For second, third, and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct that occurred when the victim was 18 or older, the time limit to charge with a crime is 10 years after the victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later.
Michigan Sexual Assault Laws
Sexual assault is a serious problem in Michigan, with the state ranking fourth-highest by number of reported rape cases countrywide. State laws have categorized sexual assault crimes into four different levels.
Here are Michigan’s sexual assault laws from the least to most serious:
- Fourth-degree: This is a misdemeanor involving sexual contact and either or all of the following: coercion, an inmate victim whose abuser is a Department of Corrections worker, victim incapacitation due to intoxication, age, or mental challenges. The penalties are up to $500 in fines and up to two years in prison.
- Third-degree: This is a felony that’s punishable with up to 15 years in prison and mandatory registration on the National Sex Offender Registry. It involves sexual penetration and any or all of the following: victim incapacitation, coercion, and victims who are between 13 and 15 years of age.
- Second-degree: This is a felony that involves sexual contact without penetration on the victim’s thighs, buttocks, breasts, or groin area, and any or all of the following: use of force, victims under 13 years old of age, injured or incapacitated victim, and multiple actors. The penalties are up to 15 years in prison and compulsory registration on National Sex Offender Registry.
- First-degree: This the most serious type of sexual assault felony. It involves different forms of sexual penetration, such as rape, and any or all of the circumstances mentioned in second-degree. The penalties are lifetime mandatory registration on the sex offenders’ list and life imprisonment.
What Are Senate Bills 871 and 872 in Michigan?
After Larry Nassar’s sentencing in 2018, state lawmakers sought to revise Michigan’s laws to give victims of sexual assault more power and hold their perpetrators accountable. Among the changes was extending the statute of limitations for particular cases. Senate Bills 871 and 872 — now Public Acts 180 and 181 of 2018 — were the result.
Senate Bill 871
This bill extends the statute of limitations for sexual assault criminal cases whose victims were children at the time. Previously, the time frame limitations were 10 years from when the incident occurred or by the victim’s 21st birthday.
According to Senate Bill 871, people who experienced sexual abuse as children now have a longer time to seek justice and healing. For second and third-degree criminal sexual conduct, victims now have up to 15 years or by their 28th birthday to take legal action.
Senate Bill 872
On the other hand, Senate Bill 872 extends the statute of limitations for sexual assault civil cases. Previously, the time limit was three years, but all victims now have up to 10 years to seek compensation for sexual abuse damages. Victims of childhood sexual abuse have until they turn 28 years of age or three years after discovering an assault-related injury.
For example, if a survivor was assaulted at five years old, they can file a civil lawsuit anytime before their 28th birthday.
The “Justice for Survivors Package” Proposed Changes
In November 2023, state lawmakers advanced a House Bill that aims to further extend the current statute of limitations for sexual assault criminal and civil cases in Michigan. The bill proposes to change the age at which a survivor can bring a civil action against their perpetrator from 28 years to 52 years. This, according to studies, is the average age that people disclose about sexual abuse.
The bill also proposes a two-year window for survivors to bring up lawsuits, regardless of how long ago the assault happened. This is similar to New York’s Adult Survivors’ Act, which provided a one-year-long window for victims to file a civil suit for sexual assault. This law has led to numerous sexual abuse lawsuits involving powerful people and millions of dollars in settlements for survivors.
Speak With a Michigan Sexual Assault Lawyer
If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, you have support. Helping Survivors offers resources on your rights and the legal options available to you. We can also connect you with compassionate and skilled attorneys whose sole aim is to fight for their clients’ well-being.
A sexual assault lawyer will guide you in the right direction toward justice and healing. They can help you understand your situation better and provide unwavering support, no matter what choices you make about your case.