In this section, our attorneys explain Nevada’s criminal laws and legal concepts, A to Z
Nevada law has no statute of limitations to bring rape (NRS 200.366) charges when either (1) the suspect is identified by DNA evidence, and/or (2) a police report of the alleged rape is filed within 20 years of the incident.
Otherwise, there is a 20-year statute of limitations for sexual assaults that occurred on or after October 1, 2011, in the state of Nevada. If the rape allegedly occurred prior to that date, the time limit to bring criminal charges is four years after the offense.1
Prior to 2015, the period of time prosecutors had to press charges was only four years after the incident. But the Bill Cosby trial as well as other Me Too era cases drew attention to the fact that many victims of sexual offenses do not report the case right after it happens. In some rape cases, victims may wait years or decide never to come forward.2
Example: Tonya was date-raped on New Year’s Day, 2013. She blamed herself for years until a therapist later explained to her that she was a crime victim. Tonya then filed a police report in 2023.
Since the incident occurred on or after October 1, 2011 and she filed a police report within 20 years of the incident, there is no statute of limitations for the police to arrest her perpetrator.
Since sexual assault is so serious and can have lifelong consequences – such as emotional trauma, STDs, pregnancy – it is fairer to give victims more time to decide whether or not to come forward and press for criminal prosecution.
Ten reasons victims in sexual assault cases elect not to report right away include:
People who commit sexual assault crimes 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 as more time passes. This is because:
However, the Cosby trial shows that it may be possible to convict someone on sexual assault charges even if the case is “stale.” (Cosby’s criminal defense attorneys were able to get his conviction overturned on procedural grounds.)3
The crime of sexual assault is a category A felony under Nevada state law. The penalties turn on the victim’s age, whether the victim was injured, and the defendant’s criminal history:
|Age of victim in Nevada sexual assault case
||Penalties for Nevada sexual assault conviction
|16 years of age or older||
|Under 16, and the defendant has no prior conviction(s) of sexual assault or a sexual offense against a child||
|Under 16, and the defendant has a prior conviction(s) of sexual assault or a sexual offense against a child||
In addition, convicted defendants must register as sex offenders.4
The Nevada crimes of murder (NRS 200.030) and terrorism (NRS 202.445) have no statute of limitations. Sex trafficking (NRS 201.300) has no statute of limitations if a police report is filed within four (4) years of the alleged trafficking.
As discussed above, rape has no statute of limitations if either:
Yes. A person indicates a lack of consent to sex not only by saying no or shaking one’s head no. Not giving consent is presumed when the person is too intoxicated or incapacitated to willingly give consent in the first place. This typically happens with the person is either:
Rape is charged the same way no matter whether the people involved are strangers or in a relationship. Rape can even occur between spouses, though arguably it is not criminal in Nevada for one spouse to have non-consensual sex with the other as long as it is unforced (such as if the other spouse is asleep). Learn more about spousal rape.6
Other potential defenses to rape charges that a criminal defense attorney can raise include that the defendant was falsely accused, or that no sexual penetration occurred.
For help for victims, refer to the following:
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.