Assault can be either civil or criminal in nature and the statutes of limitations are affected depending on what law the charge falls under. Statutes of limitations also vary significantly between jurisdictions, whether between states or state and federal courts. That said, there is no steadfast rule as to how long the statute of limitations is from assault, and as such, it is important to consult your state statutes or seek qualified legal advice regarding your case.
Statute of Limitations Explained
The statute of limitations dictates the period of time a plaintiff has to bring charges against the alleged assailant within a given jurisdiction. The statute of limitations exists to protect the accused from having charges brought against him long after an incident has faded from memory. The statute of limitations begins running the date the incident is committed. Since the statute of limitations will varies between jurisdictions (between the states and federally), it is important to consult applicable state laws for your claim.
Criminal assault differs from civil assault in that this charge is prosecuted by the government. In the context of criminal law, assault typically refers to what is known as battery under civil law. Criminal charges carry jail time, fines, probation or some combination of these. Criminal assault charges may also carry different statute of limitations than civil assault charges. Generally speaking, the more severe the charge the longer the government has to file a case. For example, felony assault in Alabama has a statute of limitations of three years, where as misdemeanour assault has a statute of limitations of one year.
In civil or tort law, assault is an intentional threat or attempt, with apparent ability to do bodily harm to another resulting in immediate reasonable apprehension of bodily harm; physical contact is unnecessary. Civil assault charges will carry different statute of limitations than criminal assault charges. Generally, but not always, civil assault plaintiffs are allowed more time to bring the case than criminal assault plaintiffs. With civil cases, most people will assume the statute of limitations is seven years, however, it is important to check what your particular jurisdiction prescribes.
Know Your Jurisdiction
Given that the federal courts as well as all 50 states have different laws regarding statute of limitations for both civil and criminal assault, it is important to review your local laws when trying to determine what the appropriate statute of limitations is. Further complications arise where states classify different types of criminal assault as either a felony or misdemeanour, which carry different statute of limitations.
Seek Qualified Counsel
Given the confusion and complications that can arise with different types of cases in different jurisdictions, it is important to consult qualified legal counsel. Your attorney will be more familiar with state and federal statutes and can offer proper guidance for your particular case.