After dozens of allegations of criminal sexual misconduct, including allegations of sexual harassment, unwanted touching, and rape of prominent celebrities, low-level employees, and everyone in between, Harvey Weinstein and his companies face a significant public relations scandal. Because of the varying statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of felony sex crimes like rape, Weinstein personally may face litigation and prosecution in New York and other states where the allegations took place. As more courts and legislatures show hostility toward gag clauses inherent in private settlement agreements, these clauses, which are intended to keep victims silent about abuse, may not provide protection.
There are a myriad of accounts surfacing about Harvey Weinstein’s behavior behind-the-scenes of his producing career, largely publicized by the The New York Times. The famed producer could face criminal charges and civil suits around the country — and possibly even the world — for alleged sex crimes. Though some of the allegations go as far back as almost 30 years, certain criminal charges Weinstein may face may not be hindered by statutes of limitation.
New York Statutes of Limitations for Sexual Offenses
State laws vary concerning statutes of limitation for civil and criminal pursuits. A state’s statutes may be further defined by the nature of the act or the age of the victim. A victim of simple assault in New York has just one year to pursue a civil suit. Likewise, a victim of sexual harassment has three years to file. For ongoing sexual harassment or misconduct, the deadline may not begin until three years from the last final act of harassment.
Criminal statutes of limitation differ from civil statutes of limitation. Regarding sexual crimes, the statutes usually provide more time for the alleged offender to be brought to justice. There is no statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of rape, while other felony sexual offenses may be subject to a five-year statute of limitations. So, rape allegations made almost 30 years ago may place Weinstein in hot water to this day in the state of New York.
Confidentiality Breeds Misconduct
As more celebrities speak up about their personal experiences and as social media sharing provides a greater platform to foster awareness, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep sexual misconduct and other complaints under wraps. Many politicians and advocates are pushing to update contractual agreements so that the pervasiveness of the problem can be properly represented. By keeping victims quiet, nondisclosure agreements falsely reflect how widespread sexual misconduct remains in the workplace.
There is a forceful move demanding Weinstein release the dozens of non-disclosure agreements he entered into after the alleged acts took place so that the victims may relate their story, even after they were substantially compensated in exchange for their silence. New York lawmakers are seeking to put a stop to these confidentiality agreements which are too often used to protect illegal activity.
Sandelands-Eyet LLP hosts a range of seasoned attorneys practicing various areas of law. We have ample experience litigating an array of cases in New Jersey and New York. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your legal case by calling 908-470-1200.