A statute of limitation (“SOL”) is a legal deadline for pressing criminal charges or filing civil claims. Once an SOL has expired, a claim or charge cannot be brought. The length of time during which different actions can be brought varies from state to state. There is no SOL for certain crimes, so actions can be brought at any time. An SOL for a civil lawsuit about a contract may be different from a lawsuit about a personal injury and both may be of varying durations between different states. SOLs can begin running at different times.
Many SOLs begin to run at the time of an offense. An SOL can be “tolled”, or suspended, and won’t begin running until a triggering event. In cases of childhood sexual abuse, an SOL will often be tolled until a minor turns 18 (i.e. majority tolling). Certain discoveries, such as a realization that a person’s suffering is the result of childhood sexual abuse, can toll an SOL (i.e. discovery tolling). Also, DNA evidence newly connecting a perpetrator to a crime can sometimes be used to prosecute a criminal defendant even after the SOL has already expired.
Some states have passed laws to increase access to justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse by temporarily reviving time-barred civil claims, allowing victims to recover against perpetrators and responsible institutions.
Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitation and Related Laws
Current Civil SOL
In Alabama, the civil SOL for child sexual assault is capped at age 25 (age of majority, 19, plus 6 years).
SOL vs. perp.: +6 years from majority
SOL vs. employer: +6 years from majority
Majority Tolling: Yes, Age 19
Discovery Tolling: None
Alabama State Law Provides:
(b) If anyone entitled to commence any of the actions enumerated in this chapter is, at the time the right accrues, below the age of 19 years, or insane, and the injury upon which the action is based arises from a sex offense as described in Section 15–20A–5, he or she shall have six years after the termination of the disability to commence the action.
Ala. Code § 6-2-8(b)
Current Criminal SOL
In Alabama, there is no criminal SOL for victims under the age of 16 for both felonies and misdemeanors.**
Alabama State Law Provides:
Offenses having no limitation:
(a) There is no limitation of time within which a prosecution must be commenced for:
(1) Any capital offense;
(2) Any felony involving the use, attempted use, or threat of, violence to a person;
(3) Any felony involving serious physical injury or death of a person;
(4) Any sex offense involving a victim under 16 years of age, regardless of whether it involves force or serious physical injury or death;
(5) Any felony involving arson of any type;
(6) Any felony involving forgery of any type;
(7) Any felony involving counterfeiting;
(8) Any felony involving drug trafficking.
(b) The amendments made by this act shall apply:
(1) To all crimes committed after January 7, 1985; and
(2) To all crimes committed before January 7, 1985, for which no statute of limitations provided under pre-existing law has run as of January 7, 1985.
(c) Nothing herein shall be construed to mean that the adoption of this act indicates that any former statute of limitations applying to capital offenses is invalid as the result of any decision of any court invalidating the capital punishment statutes of the State of Alabama.
Ala. Code § 15-3-5
Criminal DNA Provision
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 19. See Ala. Code § 26-1-1.
Age of Consent: 16. See Ala. Code § 13A-6-70.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 16. See Ala. Code § 30-1.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: See Ala. Code § 30-1-5.
Medical Neglect Statute
Civil Medical Neglect Statute
A parent cannot be considered negligent solely for failing to provide medical treatment if the parent or legal guardian was legitimately practicing his or her religious beliefs.
Alabama Civil Statute:
When an investigation of child abuse or neglect by the Department of Human Resour-ces determines that a parent or legal guardian legitimately practicing his or her religious beliefs has not provided specific medical treatment for a child, the parent or legal guardian shall not be considered a negligent parent or guardian for that reason alone.
Alabama Code §26-14-7.2
Criminal Medical Neglect Statute
A person cannot be found guilty of child endangerment solely for providing remedial treatment by spiritual means to a child under age 19 or dependent spouse, if the treatment follows the practices of a recognized church and is performed by a duly accredited practitioner.
Alabama Criminal Statute:
ALABAMA defense to child endangerment A person does not commit an offense under section 13A-13-14 or this section for the sole reason he provides a child under the age of 19 years or a dependent spouse with remedial treatment by spiritual means alone in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof in lieu of medical treatment. Alabama Code §13A-13-6(b)
Religious Liberty Statute that Could Put Children at Risk
Religious Liberty Statute
Enacted: November 3, 1998 (ratified in 1999)
AMENDMENT 622 RATIFIED: Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment. SECTION I. The amendment shall be known as and may be cited as the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment.
SECTION II. The Legislature makes the following findings concerning religious freedom:
(1) The framers of the United States Constitution, recognizing free exercise of religion as an unalienable right, secured its protection in the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the framers of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, also recognizing this right, secured the protection of religious freedom in Article I, Section 3.
(2) Federal and state laws “neutral” toward religion may burden religious exercise as surely as laws intended to interfere with religious exercise. Read More (3) Governments should not burden religious exercise without compelling justification.
(4) In Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), the United States Supreme Court virtually eliminated the requirement that the government justify burdens on religious exercise imposed by laws neutral toward religion.
(5) The compelling interest test as set forth in prior court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing governmental interests in areas ranging from public education (pedagogical interests and religious rights, including recognizing regulations necessary to alleviate interference with the educational process versus rights of religious freedom) to national defense (conscription and conscientious objection, including the need to raise an army versus rights to object to individual participation), and other areas of important mutual concern.
(6) Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C., § 2000bb, to establish the compelling interest test set forth in prior federal court rulings, but in City of Boerne v. Flores, 117 S.Ct. 2157 (1997), the United States Supreme Court held the act unconstitutional stating that the right to regulate was retained by the states.
SECTION III. The purpose of the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment is to guarantee that the freedom of religion is not burdened by state and local law; and to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious freedom is burdened by government.
SECTION IV. As used in this amendment, the following words shall have the following meanings:
(1) DEMONSTRATES. Meets the burdens of going forward with the evidence and of persuasion.
(2) FREEDOM OF RELIGION. The free exercise of religion under Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901.
(3) GOVERNMENT. Any branch, department, agency, instrumentality, and official (or other person acting under the color of law) of the State of Alabama, any political subdivision of a state, municipality, or other local government.
(4) RULE. Any government statute, regulation, ordinance, administrative provision, ruling guideline, requirement, or any statement of law whatever.
SECTION V. (a) Government shall not burden a person’s freedom of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, except as provided in subsection (b).
(b) Government may burden a person’s freedom of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:
(1) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) Is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
(c) A person whose religious freedom has been burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial, administrative, or other proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against a government.
SECTION VI. (a) This amendment applies to all government rules and implementations thereof, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether adopted before or after the effective date of this amendment.
(b) Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to authorize any government to burden any religious belief.
(c) Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to affect, interpret, or in any way address those portions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution permitting the free exercise of religion or prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion, or those provisions of Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, regarding the establishment of religion.
SECTION VII. (a) This amendment shall be liberally construed to effectuate its remedial and deterrent purposes.
(b) If any provision of this amendment or its application to any particular person or circumstance is held invalid, that provision or its application is severable and does not affect the validity of other provisions or applications of this amendment.
The information provided is solely for informational purposes and is not legal advice. To determine the SOL in a particular case, contact a lawyer in the state.