The statute of limitations to bring criminal sexual assault charges in Nevada is 20 years after the alleged rape. The statute of limitations used to be only four years, but the recent Cosby sexual assault case propelled Nevada lawmakers to increase the statute of limitations via Assembly Bill 212 (2015).
Note that the 20-year statute of limitation rule applies only to alleged rapes that occurred on or after October 1, 2015. Also note that as long as the victim files a police report within 20 years of the incident, prosecutors may bring criminal charges at any time, even if 20 years have passed.
UPDATE: There is no statute of limitations to bring criminal rape charges when the suspect is identified by DNA evidence. (Nevada Assembly Bill 142 (2019))
The reality is that many rape victims do not report their assault until many years after the fact, if ever. Some reasons victims elect not to report right away include:
- they feel shame over the rape
- they are paralyzed by shock and trauma
- they do not realize they were crime victims (especially if they are young)
- they blame themselves (even though they did nothing wrong)
- they were not "perfect victims" and believe others will think they "asked for" the sex
- they do not want to "relive" the trauma by reporting the matter to the police and enduring a possible trial
- they do not want to "stir up" problems and just hope things will return to normal
- the rapist threatened them with harm if they did report
- they did not save any evidence of the rape and assume any criminal charges would be dropped
People who commit sexual assault are no less guilty 20 years after the incident than four years. By extending the statute of limitations, survivors have more time to process their situation and decide whether to file a police report.
Certainly, sexual assault charges are usually tougher to prove the more time has passed. This is because:
- memories may not be as reliable
- there may be less evidence
- if the suspect has gone on to live a respectable life, it may be difficult to cast him/her as a rapist
However, the Cosby trial is proof that it may be possible to convict someone on sexual assault charges even if the case is "stale." Learn more about statutes of limitations in Nevada criminal cases.
Note that there is no statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges in murder or terrorism cases.
NRS 171.083 No limitation for sexual assault or sex trafficking if written report filed with law enforcement officer during period of limitation; effect of disability on period of limitation.
1. If, at any time during the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095, a victim of a sexual assault, a person authorized to act on behalf of a victim of a sexual assault, or a victim of sex trafficking or a person authorized to act on behalf of a victim of sex trafficking, files with a law enforcement officer a written report concerning the sexual assault or sex trafficking, the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095 is removed and there is no limitation of the time within which a prosecution for the sexual assault or sex trafficking must be commenced.
2. If a written report is filed with a law enforcement officer pursuant to subsection 1, the law enforcement officer shall provide a copy of the written report to the victim or the person authorized to act on behalf of the victim.
3. If a victim of a sexual assault or sex trafficking is under a disability during any part of the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095 and a written report concerning the sexual assault or sex trafficking is not otherwise filed pursuant to subsection 1, the period during which the victim is under the disability must be excluded from any calculation of the period of limitation prescribed in NRS 171.085 and 171.095.
4. For the purposes of this section, a victim of a sexual assault or sex trafficking is under a disability if the victim is insane, intellectually disabled, mentally incompetent or in a medically comatose or vegetative state.
5. As used in this section, “law enforcement officer” means:
(a) A prosecuting attorney;
(b) A sheriff of a county or the sheriff's deputy;
(c) An officer of a metropolitan police department or a police department of an incorporated city; or
(d) Any other person upon whom some or all of the powers of a peace officer are conferred pursuant to NRS 289.150 to 289.360, inclusive.
NRS 171.085 Limitations for felonies. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 171.080, 171.083, 171.084 and 171.095, an indictment for:
1. Theft, robbery, burglary, forgery, arson, sex trafficking, a violation of NRS 90.570, a violation punishable pursuant to paragraph (c) of subsection 3 of NRS 598.0999 or a violation of NRS 205.377 must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 4 years after the commission of the offense.
2. Sexual assault must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 20 years after the commission of the offense.
3. Any felony other than the felonies listed in subsections 1 and 2 must be found, or an information or complaint filed, within 3 years after the commission of the offense.