In most states, a major barrier to bringing the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault to justice is baked into the law. Nationwide, 34 states and Washington, DC, have statutes of limitations on filing rape or sexual-assault charges, ranging from 3 to 30 years. In New Hampshire, charges must be filed within six years of a crime; in Connecticut, it’s five years. In Minnesota, it’s three. Some states tie the statute of limitations to reporting deadlines. If a survivor in Illinois comes forward within three years, the state has 10 years to file charges. If she takes longer than that, the case dies.
Twenty-seven states extend or suspend statutes of limitations if DNA evidence can identify a suspect, but these exemptions vary. Georgia puts no time limit on rape cases in which a DNA match has been made. In Indiana, prosecutors must charge a suspect within one year of a DNA match. In Connecticut, the crime must be initially reported within five years for any future DNA match to be considered.