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 Iowa, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 19 (age of majority, 18, plus 1 year). For claims against a counselor, therapist, or school employee, the SOL is five years after the last appointment or school day. Also, there is a discovery rule, which allows a victim to file a claim up to 4 years after discovering an injury caused by the abuse.
SOL vs. perp: + 1 year from majority = Age 19
SOL vs. employer: + 1 year from majority= Age 19
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Liberal
Iowa State Law Provides:
Damages for child sexual abuse — time limitation
An action for damages for injury suffered as a result of sexual abuse which occurred when the injured person was a child, but not discovered until after the injured person is of the age of majority, shall be brought within four years from the time of discovery by the injured party of both the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the sexual abuse.
Iowa Code § 614.8A
Current Criminal SOL
In Iowa, the criminal SOL for any child abuse in the first, second, and third degrees is capped at age 28 (age of majority, 18, plus ten years). For any child sex abuse by the employer in the first, second and third degrees, incest, and sex exploitation by counselor, school employee, or therapist, the criminal SOL is three years after the date the alleged perpetrator is identified via DNA.
SOL vs. perp. (for any child sex abuse in the first, second and third degrees): + 10 years, from majority = Age 28
SOL vs. employer (for any child sex abuse in the first, second and third degrees, incest; and sex exploitation by counselor, school employee, or therapist): + 3 years after the date the alleged perpetrator is identified via DNA.
Iowa State Law Provides:
Sexual Abuse - first, second, or third degree
- An information or indictment for sexual abuse in the first, second, or third degree committed on or with a person who is under the age of eighteen years shall be found within ten years after the person upon whom the offense is committed attains eighteen years of age, or if the person against whom the information or indictment is sought is identified through the use of a DNA profile, an information or indictment shall be found within three years from the date the person is identified by the person's DNA profile, whichever is later.
- An information or indictment for any other sexual abuse in the first, second, or third degree shall be found within ten years after its commission, or if the person against whom the information or indictment is sought is identified through the use of a DNA profile, an information or indictment shall be found within three years from the date the person is identified by the person's DNA profile, whichever is later.
- As used in this section, “identified” means a person's legal name is known and the person has been determined to be the source of the DNA.
Iowa Code § 802.2
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18, unless you are convicted as an adult or married before 18. See Iowa Code Ann. § 599.1.
Age of Consent: 14. See Iowa Code Ann. §§ 702.5; 709.4.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 16 with judicial consent.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See Iowa Code Ann. § 595.2.
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A parent shall not be held liable for child abuse solely for providing legitimate religious treatment. This statute extends to handicapped children in schools.
Iowa Law Provides:
[A] parent or guardian legitimately practicing religious beliefs who does not provide specified medical treatment for a child for that reason alone shall not be considered abusing the child. . . .
Iowa Code § 232.68(d)
On handicapped children in the schools.
No provision of this chapter shall be construed to require or compel any person who is a member of a well-recognized church or religious denomination and whose religious convictions, in accordance with the tenets or principles of the person’s church or religious denomination, are opposed to medical or surgical treatment for disease to take or follow a course of physical therapy, or submit to medical treatment, nor shall any parent or guardian who is a member of such church or religious denomination and who has such religious convictions be required to enroll a child in any course or instruction which utilizes medical or surgical treatment for disease.
Iowa Code § 256B.8 third unnumbered paragraph (The term “person” includes children of any age enrolled in the school system.)
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
There is a religious exemption to child endangerment and first-degree manslaughter for parents who solely provide spiritual treatment in accordance with the practices of a recognized religious denomination.
Iowa Law Provides:
Iowa defense to felony child endangerment and manslaughter. The failure of a parent, guardian or person having custody or control over a child to provide specific medical treatment shall not for that reason alone be considered willful deprivation of health care if the person can show that such treatment would conflict with the tenets and practice of a recognized religious denomination of which the person is an adherent or member.
Iowa Code § 726.6(d)
Note: The above becomes a defense to first-degree manslaughter as well because the latter at Iowa Code § 707.5 requires the prosecutor to prove that “a public offense” has been committed and endangerment is the only crime relevant to medical neglect.
Current DNA Provision
*As of December 2018
2. An indictment or information may be found containing only the DNA profile of the person sought. When an indictment or information is found containing only a DNA profile, the limitation of any action under section 802.3 is tolled. 3. However, notwithstanding subsection 2, an indictment or information shall be found against a person within three years from the date the person is identified by the person's DNA profile. If the action involves sexual abuse, another sexual offense, kidnapping, or human trafficking, the indictment or information shall be found as provided in section 802.2, 802.2B, 802.2C, or 802.2D, if the person is identified by the person's DNA profile.
Iowa Code Ann. § 802.10
Religous Liberty Statute
Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk
No law as of January 2017.
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.