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 California, the civil SOL for child sex abuse is capped at age 26 (age of majority, 18, plus 8 years). There is also a discovery rule, which allows victims up to 3 years to file a claim after discovering a injury caused by the abuse.
SOL vs. perp, employer: + 8 years from majority = Age 26
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Liberal (+ 3 years)
California State Law Provides:
Action against health care provider; three years from injury or one year from discovery; exceptions; minors
In an action for injury or death against a health care provider based upon such person's alleged professional negligence, the time for the commencement of action shall be three years after the date of injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first. In no event shall the time for commencement of legal action exceed three years unless tolled for any of the following: (1) upon proof of fraud, (2) intentional concealment, or (3) the presence of a foreign body, which has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose or effect, in the person of the injured person. Actions by a minor shall be commenced within three years from the date of the alleged wrongful act except that actions by a minor under the full age of six years shall be commenced within three years or prior to his eighth birthday whichever provides a longer period. Such time limitation shall be tolled for minors for any period during which parent or guardian and defendant's insurer or health care provider have committed fraud or collusion in the failure to bring an action on behalf of the injured minor for professional negligence.
Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340
Current Criminal SOL
In California, the criminal SOL for for felony child sex abuse claims is capped at age 40 for some felonies, and is capped at 10 years after the abuse for all others.
As of January 1, 2017: NONE, for felony sex offenses, California Senate Bill 813, codified this change.
As of January 1, 2015: SOL up to Age 40
Before January 1, 2015: SOL up to Age 28
California State Law Provides:
An act to amend Sections 799, 801.1, and 803 of the Penal Code, relating to crimes
SEC. 2. Section 801.1 of the Penal Code is amended to read:
(1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, prosecution for a felony offense described in Section 261, 286, 288, 288.5, 288a, or 289, or Section 289.5, as enacted by Chapter 293 of the Statutes of 1991 relating to penetration by an unknown object, that is alleged to have been committed when the victim was under 18 years of age, may be commenced any time prior to the victim’s 40th birthday.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall only apply to crimes that were committed on or after January 1, 2015, or for which the statute of limitations that was in effect prior to January 1, 2015, has not run as of January 1, 2015.
(b) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, if either subdivision (a) of this section or subdivision (b) of Section 799 does not apply, prosecution for a felony offense described in subdivision (c) of Section 290 shall be commenced within 10 years after commission of the offense.
SEC. 3. Section 803 of the Penal Code is amended to read:
- (a) Except as provided in this section, a limit ation of time prescribed in this chapter is not tolled or extended for any reason.
(b) No time during which prosecution of the same person for the same conduct is pending in a court of this state is a part of a limitation of time prescribed in this chapter.
(f) (1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, if subdivision (b) of Section 799 does not apply, a criminal complaint may be filed within one year of the date of a report to a California law enforcement agency by a person of any age alleging that he or she, while under 18 years of age, was the victim of a crime described in Section 261, 286, 288, 288a, 288.5, or 289, or Section 289.5, as enacted by Chapter 293 of the Statutes of 1991 relating to penetration by an unknown object.
(4) (A) In a criminal investigation involving any of the crimes listed in paragraph (1) committed against a child, when the applicable limitations period has not expired, that period shall be tolled from the time a party initiates litigation challenging a grand jury subpoena until the end of the litigation, including any associated writ or appellate proceeding, or until the final disclosure of evidence to the investigating or prosecuting agency, if that disclosure is ordered pursuant to the subpoena after the litigation.
California Senate Bill 813
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18. See Cal. Fam. Code § 6500.
Age of Consent: 18. See Cal. Penal Code § 261.5.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: Under 18 with judicial consent (court can also require parties to partake in premarital counseling if deemed necessary). See Cal. Fam. Code § 301, 302
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18. See Cal. Fam. Code § 301, 302.
Current DNA Provision
*As of December 2018
(g)(1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, a criminal complaint may be filed within one year of the date on which the identity of the suspect is conclusively established by DNA testing, if both of the following conditions are met:
(A) The crime is one that is described in subdivision (c) of Section 290.
(B) The offense was committed prior to January 1, 2001, and biological evidence collected in connection with the offense is analyzed for DNA type no later than January 1, 2004, or the offense was committed on or after January 1, 2001, and biological evidence collected in connection with the offense is analyzed for DNA type no later than two years from the date of the offense.
(2) For purposes of this section, “DNA” means deoxyribonucleic acid.
Cal. Penal Code § 803 (West)
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
Parent’s will not be found guilty of child abuse for the reason of providing spiritual treatment alone if the treatment is based on a sincerely held religious belief.
California Law Provides:
Whenever it is alleged that a child comes within the jurisdiction of the court on the basis of the parent’s or guardian’s willful failure to provide adequate medical treatment or specific decision to provide spiritual treatment through prayer, the court shall give deference to the parent’s or guardian’s medical treatment, nontreatment, or spiritual treatment through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination, by an accredited practitioner thereof, and shall not assume jurisdiction unless necessary to protect the child from suffering serious physical harm or illness. In making its determination, the court shall consider (1) the nature of the treatment proposed by the parent or guardian, (2) the risks to the child posed by the course of treatment or nontreatment proposed by the parent or guardian, (3) the risk, if any, of the course of treatment being proposed by the petitioning agency, and (4) the likely success of the courses of treatment or nontreatment proposed by the parent or guardian and agency. The child shall continue to be a dependent child pursuant to this subdivision only so long as is necessary to protect the child from risk of suffering serious physical harm or illness.
Calif. Welfare and Institutions Code §300(b)(1)
A child shall not be found to be [suffering serious emotional damage or at substantial risk of suffering serious emotional damage as a result of the conduct of the parent or guardian] if the willful failure of the parent or guardian to provide adequate mental health treatment is based on a sincerely held religious belief and if a less intrusive judicial intervention is available.
Calif. Welfare and Institutions Code §300( c)
In any case in which a child is alleged to come within the provisions of Section 300 on the basis that he or she is in need of medical care, the court, in making that finding, shall give consideration to any treatment being provided to the child by spiritual means through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by an accredited practitioner thereof.
Calif. Welfare and Institutions Code §300.5
For the purposes of this chapter, a child receiving treatment by spiritual means as provided in Section 16508 of the Welfare and Institutions Code shall not for that reason alone be considered an abused or neglected child.
California Welfare and Institutions Code §18950.5
No child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomina¬tion by a duly accre¬dited practitioner thereof shall, for that reason alone, be consi¬dered to have been neglected within the purview of this chapter.
California Welfare and Institutions Code §16509.1
Cultural and religious child-rearing practices and beliefs which differ from general community standards shall not in themselves create a need for child welfare services unless the prac¬tices present a speci¬fic danger to the physical or emotional safety of the child.
California Welfare and Institutions Code §16509
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A child receiving spiritual treatment based on a sincerely held religious belief will not be considered abused or neglected for that reason alone.
California Law Provides:
CALIFORNIA defense to nonsupport and failure to report suspected child neglect
If a parent of a minor child willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter, medical attendance, or other remedial care for his/her child, he/she is guilty of a misdemeanor. . . . If a parent provides a minor with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination, by a duly accredited practitioner thereof, such treatment shall constitute “other remedial care,” as used in this section.
California Penal Code §270
For the purposes of this chapter, a child receiving treatment by spiritual means as provided in Section 16509.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or not receiving specified medical treat¬ment for religious reasons, shall not for that reason alone be considered a neglected child.
California Penal Code §11165.2(b)
The California Supreme Court upheld a manslaughter conviction of a Christian Science mother, Laurie Walker, who let her daughter die of untreated meningitis. The Court ruled that the legislature did not intend for the religious defense to non-support to apply to felony charges. Walker v. Superior Court, 763 P.2d 852 (Cal. 1988), cert. denied, 491 U.S. 905 (1989) Justice Mosk wrote a concurring opinion that the Section 270 defense had “fatal constitutional defects” as violating the Establishment Clause.
Walker applied for a writ of habeas corpus challenging her conviction. A federal court overturned her conviction on grounds that it violated her right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment because of Section 270. The court did not reach several other claims raised by Walker. Walker v. Keldgord, U.S. Dist. Ct., Eastern Dist. Calif., #CIV S-93-0616-LKK/JFM (1996). Walker v. Superior Court, 763 P.2d 852 (Cal. 1988), holding that there is no due process violation, remains the law for defendants who withhold necessary medical care from children after 1988.
Religous Liberty Statute
Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk
Assembly Bill 2237
CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2013–2014 REGULAR SESSION
ASSEMBLY BILL No. 2237
Introduced by Assembly Member Grove
February 21, 2014
An act relating to civil rights.
Legislative Counsel’s Digest
AB 2237, as introduced, Grove. Unruh Civil Rights Act: exception: religion.
The Unruh Civil Rights Act provides that all persons within the state are free and equal, regardless of their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation, and are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.
This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would provide an exception to the Unruh Civil Rights Act to protect the free exercise of religion.
Vote: majority Appropriation: no Fiscal Committee: no Local Program: no
Bill Text The People of the State of California Do Enact as Follows:
SECTION 1. It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to provide an exception to the Unruh Civil Rights Act to protect the free exercise of religion.
O’CONNOR INVITED SUPPORTERS TO SEND AN EMAIL OR A FAX TO GROVE REGARDING AB 2237, AND READERS CAN DO SO BY CLICKING HERE.
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.