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Child Molestation Statute of Limitations

In most states, there is a statute of limitations on bringing criminal charges against a perpetrator for alleged child molestation. California, however, recently ended its statutes of limitations on most felony sex crimes.

In most states, there is a statute of limitations on bringing criminal charges against a perpetrator for alleged child molestation. California, however, recently ended its statutes of limitations on most felony sex crimes. This means if you are a survivor of child molestation in California, you can most likely press charges against the perpetrator at any time. There are, however, exceptions to the rule.

What Is a Statute of Limitations? Why Is It Important?

A statute of limitations is a law that places a deadline on the ability to file criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit against an alleged offender. The point of a statute of limitations is to make the justice system more efficient by encouraging timely filing. It also keeps things fair for both parties by removing a plaintiff’s ability to wait as long as he or she wishes to bring a case against a defendant.

Criminal Statute of Limitations on Child Molestation in California

A criminal statute of limitations is a deadline on a prosecutor’s ability to file criminal charges against an alleged perpetrator for a sex crime. With only some exceptions, missing your statute of limitations to press charges means losing the ability to hold the perpetrator responsible for child molestation.

In California, however, there is no legal time limit on pressing charges for child molestation or child sexual abuse against a perpetrator. You can bring criminal charges against an assailant years after the incident, in most cases. Certain types of felony crimes, however, such as rape under California Penal Code 261(a)(5), still have statutes of limitations. You may need help from a Los Angeles child sexual abuse lawyer to understand your exact deadline to press charges

If you wish to press criminal charges against your assailant, cooperate with the police officer in charge of your case. The police investigation will search for enough evidence to piece together a case against the defendant. Whether or not you chose to report child molestation to the authorities, however, will not affect your criminal statute of limitations. If DNA evidence identifies a suspect, this will automatically add a year to the statute of limitations.

Civil Statute of Limitations on Child Molestation Injury Claims

Different types of criminal charges in California have different statutes of limitations. Civil claims that are grouped into the same category, on the other hand, have the same time limits. As is the case with every type of injury claim, California has statutes of limitations on civil child molestation and child sexual abuse cases. This deadline changes based on whether the victim was a minor or adult (over the age of 18) at the time of the assault.

While typical personal injury claims in California must be brought within two years of the date of the incident, California’s Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.1 gives plaintiffs until their 40th birthdays (22 years from their 18th birthdays) to bring civil lawsuits against perpetrators for child molestation. If they discover their psychological injuries were the result of molestation after their 18th birthdays, they have five years from the date of discovery to file.

If a victim was an adult when the crime occurred and the incident took place before 2019, he or she has 10 years from the date of the last act or attempt at sexual assault to file a civil claim or three years from the date of discovery. As of a new law passed in 2020, claimants who were previously barred from filing by the old statute of limitations may now revive their claims as long as they file within three years.

When To Contact an Attorney

It is imperative to obey your deadline if you wish to have a valid claim against an assailant in California, as the courts generally will not hear a case that is brought too late. However, the statutes of limitations can be confusing. California has multiple time limits for child sexual assault, abuse and molestation cases. Furthermore, statutes of limitations are always changing and evolving.

Contact a sexual abuse attorney in California as soon as possible for assistance with a child molestation lawsuit. A lawyer can help you bring a claim against a perpetrator with the utmost respect and confidentiality. Contacting a lawyer right away can help you ensure you do not miss your statutes of limitations.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.