E. Jean Carroll has sued Donald Trump for battery. But battery is also a crime. Is anything known, or can we make any reasonable inferences, about why New York State hasn't charged him for battery?

2 Answers 2


In a New York Magazine article published in June 2019, Carroll claimed the event occurred "in the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996" - more than twenty years prior.

She claimed she did not report the event to the police.

At the time, the criminal statute of limitations on such accusations was five years.

If New York's authorities were not aware of it, that explains why Trump wasn't charged at the time or within the five years before the allegation became time-barred.

In June 2006 New York changed the law but the change did not retroactively apply to alleged crimes committed before 2006.

Carroll could make a civil claim because of the Adult Survivor's Act which amended the civil statute of limitations to allow "alleged victims of sexual offenses such as sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact in the workplace to file civil suits between November 24, 2022, and November 24, 2023" (Wikipedia).

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    I was afraid it might be a statute-of-limitations thing. It seems a bit odd that the state legislature decided to expand the statute of limitations for civil but not criminal claims, when crimes are in general more heinous than civil wrongs, and therefore arguably less deserving of a statute of limitations in the first place. But that's its own question. May 9, 2023 at 18:37
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    @Kodiologist: I strongly suspect that it's related to the constitutional bar on ex post facto laws, though I'll admit I don't know for sure. May 9, 2023 at 18:46

E. Jean Carroll first sued Donald Trump in 2019 for defamation in connection with his statements in 2019 denying a prior assault upon her in the 1990s in response to her 2019 memoire asserted that he had done so in the 1990s. The statute of limitations in that case ran from the time that Trump made the statement. The first lawsuit is still pending because of issues over whether Presidential immunity from lawsuits applies to it:

The Justice Department has argued Trump was acting as the president while responding to Carroll’s allegations and said the United States, rather than Trump himself, should be the defendant. If the courts agree, it would probably torpedo Carroll’s claim because the government cannot be sued for defamation.

The issue remains unresolved. The D.C. Court of Appeals heard arguments on the case but essentially punted on the issue this month, sending it to another court.

The criminal statute of limitations on this underlying conduct in the 1990s expired long before the lawsuit was filed. She did not press criminal charges at the time.

Last year [i.e in 2022], Carroll filed a second lawsuit, this one accusing Trump of battery and defaming her again after he left office. That lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, is the one scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday [i.e. last week]. The suit was filed in November 2022 as a New York law known as the Adult Survivors Act took effect. That law allowed sexual assault victims to sue years later, which proponents said was necessary because it can take considerable time for survivors to feel ready to speak out.

All of the factual statements in this answer, including all quotes material, are from an April 24, 2023 article in the Washington Post.

As a practical matter, a final resolution of the second lawsuit will resolve essentially all issues in the first lawsuit except Presidential immunity (and arguably a slight amount of damages), under the doctrine of collateral estoppel (a.k.a. issue preclusion). A defense verdict from the jury in the pending case would render the Presidential immunity issue in the first case moot.

Sources including this one have concluded that the Adult Survivors Act (ASA) is likely to withstand a constitutional challenge. This is because a similar law passed on 2019, the Child Victims Act (CVA), was upheld as constitutional. The ruling in the CVA cases, in turn, relied heavily on a 9-11 related statute of limitations revival act which was upheld by New York State's highest court in 2017:

Shortly after the passage of the CVA, lawsuits were filed with the state and federal courts of New York arguing that the CVA was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause. Decisions have been rendered in state and federal courts holding that the CVA was constitutional.

Both courts relied on the legal standard enumerated by the In re World Trade Ctr. Lower Manhattan Disaster Site Litig., 30 N.Y.3d 377, 400 (2017). which established that for a revival statute to be deemed constitutional under the Due Process Clause, there must exist an identifiable injustice that moved the Legislature to act," and second, "in each case, the Legislature's revival of the plaintiff's claims for a limited period of time was reasonable in light of that injustice."

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