What Is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault in California?

Sexual assault is a serious crime that can have a wide range of ramifications on a victim. While nothing can truly make a victim whole again after being sexually assaulted or abused, filing a sexual assault civil claim in Los Angeles can provide justice, accountability and financial compensation for the victim’s losses. To have a valid sexual assault case in California, you must abide by your statute of limitations or deadline for filing.

10 Years for Adult Sexual Assault Cases (Or 3 Years From Date of Discovery)

The statute of limitations on a sexual assault incident involving a victimized adult – someone who is 18 years or older at the time of the attack – is 10 years from the date of the last act, attempted act or assault with the intent to commit an act, under California Code of Civil Procedure 340.16(a).

A discovery exception gives a plaintiff three years from the date that he or she “discovers or reasonably should have discovered that an injury or illness resulted from an act, attempted act or assault with the intent to commit an act, of sexual assault against the plaintiff.” With delayed discovery, a survivor may have more than 10 years from the date of the event to file a civil lawsuit.

Other circumstances may also shorten or extend the statute of limitations on an adult sexual assault claim in California. If the same defendant is facing criminal prosecution as a result of the sexual assault, for example, the clock on the statute of limitations may be tolled (paused) until the conclusion of the criminal proceeding.

California Eliminated the Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Assault as of 2024

California lawmakers have removed what one Assembly member referred to as “cruel and arbitrary barriers to healing and justice,” with the elimination of the statute of limitations on child sexual assault cases. As of January 1, 2024, the passing of Assembly Bill 452 eliminates the existing time limit. Any civil action for childhood sexual assault that occurred after this date is not subject to a statute of limitations.

Prior to the passing of this law, the time limit to file a childhood sexual assault claim in California was the victim’s 40th birthday (22 years from turning 18, the age of majority) or 5 years from the date that the connection between a mental health condition and childhood sexual abuse was discovered, whichever came later. This statute of limitations still applies to child sexual assault incidents that occurred before January 1, 2024.

Under the new law (California Code of Civil Procedure 340.1), a civil claim for a child sexual abuse event that occurred after January 1 of 2024 can be brought at any time. However, it is best not to wait to file a lawsuit if you have discovered child sexual assault, as prompt legal action can help to protect your rights. Waiting too long could put you at risk of losing evidence, such as accurate witness accounts, photographs, video surveillance footage and documents.

Criminal Sexual Assault Statutes of Limitations in California

Criminal charges for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, incest, sexual penetration, and arranging a meeting with a minor for the purpose of exposing genitals or engaging in lewd and lascivious behavior must be commenced by the prosecution within three years of the offense. Criminal charges for rape or penetration with a foreign object must be brought within six years after the commission of the offense.

Criminal charges for the following may be commenced at any time if the offense was committed on or after January 1, 2017: felony or aggravated child sexual assault, sexual acts with a child 10 or younger, lewd or lascivious acts involving children, oral copulation involving a child, and forcible acts of sexual penetration.

For more information about the statute of limitations on your sexual assault case in California, contact Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for a free consultation.