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The laws that govern the statute of limitations for assault cases differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To obtain specific information about the statute of limitations for assault in a particular area, a person will likely have to research the laws in his jurisdiction. Generally speaking, however, the statute of limitations in a civil case is lengthier than the statute of limitations in a criminal case. In a criminal case, a defendant often faces the possibility of prosecution for a year or two. A victim may have several years to file a civil lawsuit for assault, however.
There are no universal rules that govern how long a person can be charged with or sued for assault in all jurisdictions. Instead, each jurisdiction sets its own unique limits. Often, jurisdictions allow a shorter period for the criminal prosecution of assault, as it may be harder for a defendant to receive justice after a long period of time has passed. Both the defendant and the victim also may have a harder time recalling facts of a case if an extended period passes between an incident of assault and prosecution. In some places, the statute of limitations for assault is between one and three years.
Often, the statute of limitations on criminal assault is influenced by the seriousness of the crime. In the case of felony assault, the statute of limitations is likely to be longer than if the person committed a misdemeanor form of assault. In some jurisdictions, for example, felony assault cases may be prosecuted within three years, while prosecutors may only have a year to charge a person with misdemeanor assault. This may differ from place to place, however.
Civil cases of assault often have lengthier statutes of limitation than criminal cases. In a civil case, the victim of the assault, rather than a government prosecutor, pursues the case. When this occurs, the victim of the assault is called the plaintiff and often has several years to file a case and sue the person who is accused of assault.
An individual who has been involved in an assault case may do well to seek the advice of an attorney. An attorney can provide details about the statute of limitations for assault in a particular jurisdiction as well as strategies for proceeding with a case. For example, an attorney may let a victim of assault know whether or not it is too late to file a civil assault case. Likewise, an attorney may advise the accused party on the likelihood of prosecution after a long period of time has passed. An attorney may even provide in-court representation to the victim or the accused party in an assault case.
If there's any question about whether the statute of limitations has run in any criminal case, make sure to bring it up to your attorney (whether that lawyer is one you hired or a public defender). Believe it or not, some prosecutors will try to bring charges, anyway -- it really is up to the defense to raise the issue in those instances.