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 Delaware, there is no civil SOL for all child sex abuse claims.
NONE for all child sex abuse civil offenses.
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Narrow
Delaware State Law Provides:
If a person entitled to any action comprehended within §§ 8101-8115 of this title, shall have been, at the time of the accruing of the cause of such action, under disability of infancy or incompetency of mind, this chapter shall not be a bar to such action during the continuance of such disability, nor until the expiration of 3 years from the removal thereof.
Del. Code Ann. tit. 10, § 8116
Child Victim's Act, which created two year window allowing victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring civil suits previously barred by the statute of limitations, did not disturb any vested right in expiration of statute of limitations, and thus did not violate due process rights of alleged abusive teacher, school where teacher worked, and religious organizations that ran school; statute of limitation was a legislative creation subject to change, and lengthening of statute of limitation was the resurrection of a lost remedy, rather than the destruction of a right. U.S.C.A. Const.Amend. 14; Del.C.Ann. Const. Art. 1, § 7; 10 Del. C. § 8145.
Whitwell v. Archmere Acad., Inc., No: 07C-08-006 (RBY), 2008 Del. Super. LEXIS 141 at 17, 2008 WL 1735370 (Del. Super. Ct. Apr. 16, 2008)*
Current Criminal SOL
In Delaware, there is no criminal SOL for all child sex abuse offenses.
NONE for all child sex abuse offenses.
Delaware State Law Provides:
§ 205 Time limitations.
(e) Notwithstanding the period prescribed by subsection (b) of this section, a prosecution for any crime that is delineated in § 787 of this title and in which the victim is a minor, subpart D of subchapter II of Chapter 5 of this title, or is otherwise defined as a "sexual offense" by § 761 of this title except § 763, § 764 or § 765 of this title, or any attempt to commit said crimes, may be commenced at any time. No prosecution under this subsection shall be based upon the memory of the victim that has been recovered through psychotherapy unless there is some evidence of the corpus delicti independent of such repressed memory. This subsection applies to all causes of action arising before, on or after July 15, 1992, and to the extent consistent with this subsection, it shall revive causes of action that would otherwise be barred by this section.
11 Del. C. § 205
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 1, § 701.
Age of Consent: 16 or 18 depending on the age of the perpetrator. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 770.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: Under 18 with judicial consent. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 13 § 123.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 13 § 123.
If the period prescribed by subsection (b) of this sextion hasexpired, a prosecution for any offense in this title may be commenced within 10 years after it is committed if based upon foresnsic DNA testing.
Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 205 (West)
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
No child receiving spiritual treatment in accordance with a recognized form of religious healing will be considered abused or neglected for that reason alone. A parent’s rights also cannot be terminated for their decision to use faith based treatment alone.
Delaware Civil Statute:
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 denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall for that reason alone be considered a neglected child for purposes of this chapter.
Delaware Code §16-913 (on reporting obligations)
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to authorize any court to terminate the rights of a parent to a child, solely because the parent, in good faith, provides for his or her child, in lieu of medical treatment, treatment by spiritual means alone through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practice of a recognized church or religious denomination.
Delaware Code §13-1103(c)
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
Parents cannot be found guilty of child abuse or endangerment solely for prescribing prayer treatment in accordance with the beliefs of a recognized church. However, this exemption does not apply when laws are violated relating to communicable diseases, sanitary matters, or in the case of serious physical injury.
Delaware Law Provides:
DELAWARE defense to child endangerment
In any prosecution for endangering the welfare of a child, except where it is alleged to be punishable under § 1102(b)(1) or (b)(2) of this title, which is based upon an alleged failure or refusal to provide proper medical care or treatment to an ill child, it is an affirmative defense that the accused is a member or adherent of an organized church or religious group, the tenets of which prescribe prayer as the principal treatment for illness, and treated or caused the ill child to be treated in accordance with those tenets; provided the accused may not assert this defense when the person has violated any laws relating to communicable or reportable diseases and to sanitary matters.
Delaware Code title 11 §1104
Note: §1102(b)(1) deals with child endangerment resulting in death; (b)(2) deals with child endangerment resulting in serious physical injury; the religious defense applies only to misdemeanors that do not cause serious physical injury
Note: Sec. 19-3-103 is a civil statute with a religious exemption.
Religous Liberty Statute
Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk
No law as of January 2014.
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.