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 Maine, there is no civil SOL for child sex abuse claims.
SOL vs. perp: None
SOL vs. employer: None
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Narrow
Maine Law Provides:
Sexual acts towards minors
- No limitation. Actions based upon sexual acts toward minors may be commenced at any time.
- Sexual acts toward minors defined. As used in this section, “sexual acts toward minors” means the following acts that are committed against or engaged in with a person under the age of majority:
A. Sexual act, as defined in Title 17-A, section 251, subsection 1, paragraph C; or
B. Sexual contact, as defined in Title 17-A, section 251, subsection 1, paragraph D.
ME ST T. 14 § 752-C
752-C’s removal of SOL would theoretically apply to IIED and negligent supervision claims as it applies to “any claims related to any sexual abuse,” but cannot be applied retroactively to claims already time-barred in 1991.
Guptill v. Martin, 228 F.R.D. 62, 64 (D. Me. 2005)
Discovery, yes, narrow.
“…[T]he time the person discovers or reasonably should have discovered the harm”
McAfee v. Cole, 637 A.2d 463, 466 (Me. 1994)
Noting that if applicable, discovery rule would only toll until a victim with repressed memories “discovered the abuse on regaining his memory”.
Nuccio v. Nuccio, 673 A.2d 1331, 1335 (Me. 1996)
If a person entitled to bring any of the actions under sections 752 to 754, including section 752-C, and under sections 851 and 852 and Title 24, section 2902 and, until July 1, 2017, section 2902-B is a minor, mentally ill, imprisoned or without the limits of the United States when the cause of action accrues, the action may be brought within the times limited herein after the disability is None.
14 Me. Rev. Stat. § 853
Current Criminal SOL
In Maine, there is no criminal SOL for felonies and misdemeanors where the victims are under the age of 16.
-No SOL for felonies and misdemeanors for victims under the age of 16 for: incest; unlawful sexual contact; sexual abuse of a minor; rape or gross sexual assault, formerly denominated as gross sexual misconduct.
-SOL is age 38 for felony unlawful sexual contact or gross sexual assault for victims ages 16 and older.
-SOL for remaining sexual abuse crimes against victims age 16 and older is age 24 for felonies and age 21 for misdemeanors.
Maine Law Provides:
Statute of limitations
- It is a defense that prosecution was commenced after the expiration of the applicable period of limitations provided in this section, except that the following prosecutions may be commenced at any time:
A. A prosecution for murder or criminal homicide in the first or 2nd degree; or
B. If the victim had not attained the age of 16 years at the time of the crime, a prosecution for incest; unlawful sexual contact; sexual abuse of a minor; or rape or gross sexual assault, formerly denominated as gross sexual misconduct.
- Except as provided in subsection 1 or 2–A, a prosecution for a Class A, Class B or Class C crime must be commenced within 6 years after it is committed and a prosecution for a Class D or Class E crime must be commenced within 3 years after it is committed.
A. A prosecution for a Class A, Class B or Class C crime must be commenced within 6 years after it is committed; and
B. A prosecution for a Class D or Class E crime must be commenced within 3 years after it is committed.
2-A. A prosecution for a Class A, Class B or Class C crime involving unlawful sexual contact or gross sexual assault must be commenced within 20 years after it is committed. This subsection does not apply to a Class D crime enhanced to a Class C crime pursuant to section 1252, subsection 4-A.
The periods of limitations shall not run:
A. During any time when the accused is absent from the State, but in no event shall this provision extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than 5 years;
B. During any time when a prosecution against the accused for the same crime based on the same conduct is pending in this State; or
C. During any time when a prosecution against the accused for the corresponding juvenile crime based on the same conduct is pending in the Juvenile Court. For purposes of this section, pending includes any appeal period and, if an appeal is taken, any period pending its final disposition.
If a timely complaint, information or indictment is dismissed for any error, defect, insufficiency or irregularity, a new prosecution for the same crime based on the same conduct may be commenced within 6 months after the dismissal, or during the next session of the grand jury, whichever occurs later, even though the periods of limitations have expired at the time of such dismissal or will expire within such period of time.
If the period of limitation has expired, a prosecution may nevertheless be commenced for:
A. Any crime based upon breach of fiduciary obligation, within one year after discovery of the crime by an aggrieved party or by a person who has a legal duty to represent an aggrieved party, and who is not a party to the crime, whichever occurs first;
B. Any crime based upon official misconduct by a public servant, at any time when such person is in public office or employment or within 2 years thereafter.
C. This subsection shall in no event extend the limitation period otherwise applicable by more than 5 years.
For purposes of this section:
A. A crime is committed when every element thereof has occurred, or if the crime consists of a continuing course of conduct, at the time when the course of conduct or the defendant's complicity therein is terminated; and
B. A prosecution is commenced whenever one of the following occurs:
(1) A criminal complaint is filed;
(2) An indictment is returned; or
(3) Following waiver of an indictment, an information is filed.
The defense established by this section shall not bar a conviction of a crime included in the crime charged, notwithstanding that the period of limitation has expired for the included crime, if as to the crime charged the period of limitation has not expired or there is no such period, and there is evidence which would sustain a conviction for the crime charged.
ME ST T. 17-A § 8
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 1, § 73.
Age of Consent: 16. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17-a, § 254.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 16 with judicial consent.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 19-A, § 652.
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A child shall not be considered abused or neglected solely because their parent provides spiritual treatment in accordance with a recognized religion. However, medical treatment can be authorized if requested by a child or parent.
Maine Law Provides:
1. Treatment not considered abuse or neglect. Under subchapters I to VII, a child shall not be considered to be abused or neglected, in jeopardy of health or welfare or in danger of serious harm solely because treatment is by spiritual means by an accredited practitioner of a recog¬nized religious organization.
2. Treatment to be considered if requested. When medical treatment is authorized under this chapter, treatment by spiritual means by an accredited practitioner of a recognized religious organization may also be considered if requested by the child or his parent.
Maine Revised Statutes Title 22, Ch. 1071, Subchap. 1 § 4010
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A parent is not liable for child endangerment solely for providing their child with spiritual treatment in good faith.
Maine Criminal Statute:
MAINE defense to child endangerment
A person who in good faith provides treatment for a child or dependent person by spiritual means through prayer may not for that reason alone be deemed to have knowingly endangered the welfare of that child or dependent person.
Maine Revised Statutes title 17A § 557
Current DNA Provision
*As of December 2018
Religous Liberty Statute
Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk
Pending Religion Bill
An Act To Protect Religious Freedom
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows: Sec. 1. 1 MRSA c. 33 is enacted to read:
PRESERVATION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT
§ 2701. Short title. This chapter may be known and cited as “the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.”
§ 2702. Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms have the following meanings. Burden. “Burden,” with respect to an exercise of governmental authority, means to directly or indirectly do any of the following: Constrain or inhibit conduct or expression mandated by a person’s sincerely held religious tenet or belief; Significantly curtail a person’s ability to express adherence to the person’s religious faith; Deny a person a reasonable opportunity to engage in activities that are fundamental to the person’s religion; Compel conduct or expression that violates a tenet or belief of a person’s religious faith; or Withhold benefits from or assess penalties against a person or exclude a person from programs or access to facilities because of the person’s religion or religious belief. Compelling governmental interest. “Compelling governmental interest” means the interest of a government to protect the best interests of a child or the health, safety or welfare of a child. Demonstrates. “Demonstrates” means supports a position with evidence and persuasion. Exercise of religion. “Exercise of religion” means the practice or observance of religion under the United States Constitution, Amendment I and the Constitution of Maine and includes acting or refusing to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the practice or observance is compulsory or a central part or central requirement of the person’s religious belief. Fraudulent claim. “Fraudulent claim” means a claim that is dishonest in fact or that is made principally for a patently improper purpose, such as to harass an opposing party in a court action. Frivolous claim. “Frivolous claim” means a claim that lacks merit under existing law and cannot be supported by a good faith argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law. Government. “Government” means any of the following: A board, commission, court, department, agency, special district, authority or other entity of the State; A political subdivision of the State, including a county, municipality, school board, sheriff, public board, institution, district or corporation; Any other public or governmental body of any kind that is not a state agency, municipality or political subdivision; and An official or other person acting under color of law. Person. “Person” means an individual, corporate body or religious organization. Religious organization. “Religious organization” means a church, association of churches or other religious order, body or institution that qualifies for exemption from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) or 501(d) of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
§ 2703. Exercise of religion protected. A government may not burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a facially neutral law or rule or a law or rule of general applicability, unless the government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.
§ 2704. Action in court. A person whose exercise of religion is being, has been or is likely to be burdened in violation of this chapter may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief under subsection 5. Notice. Except as provided in subsection 3, at least 30 days prior to bringing an action under this section, a person must give written notice to the government burdening the person by certified mail, return receipt requested, informing the government of the following: That the person’s exercise of religion is being, has been or is likely to be burdened by an exercise of the authority of the government; A description of the act or refusal to act by the government that is burdening, has burdened or is likely to burden the person’s exercise of religion; and The manner in which the exercise of governmental authority burdens the person’s exercise of religion. Action without notice. A person who is burdened by a government may bring an action in court under this section to seek relief under subsection 5 without providing notice under subsection 2 if: The threat of the exercise of governmental authority to burden the person’s exercise of religion is imminent; The person was not informed and did not otherwise have knowledge of the exercise of governmental authority that is the subject of the action in time to reasonably provide notice under subsection 2; Giving notice under subsection 2 would delay an action to the extent that the action would be dismissed as untimely; or The claim underlying the action is asserted as a counterclaim, objection or defense in a pending judicial proceeding. Remediation. If a government remedies a burden prior to the expiration of the 30-day notice period under subsection 2, the person for whom the burden was remedied may not bring an action under this section for that burden or shall dismiss an action on that burden if the action is pending. Remedies. A court may grant appropriate relief to a prevailing party bringing a claim or defense under subsection 1, not including punitive or exemplary damages, without regard to whether the action is brought in the name of the State or by any other person. Relief under this section may include but need not be limited to: Injunctive relief, including a protective order, a writ of mandamus or a prohibition or declaratory relief; or Actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Fraudulent or frivolous claims. A court that finds that a person has filed a fraudulent claim or frivolous claim under subsection 1 may assess against the person the court costs of the government that is party to the action and may enjoin the person from filing further claims under this section without leave of the court.
§ 2705. Exceptions; authorizations; application. Exceptions. A rule adopted by a correctional facility to protect the safety and security of staff, visitors or incarcerated persons of the correctional facility or to maintain order or discipline in the correctional facility is exempt from this chapter. Authorizations. This chapter does not authorize: A person to cause physical injury to another person; A marital or other relationship that would violate the Constitution of Maine; or The enforcement of any law, rule or legal code or system established and used or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the states or territories of the United States. Applicability. This chapter applies to all state laws, rules and local ordinances and the implementation of those laws, rules and ordinances, whether statutory or otherwise and whether enacted or adopted before, on or after the effective date of this chapter.
§ 2706. Construction. The protections of this chapter are in addition to the protections granted by federal law, the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Maine. This chapter does not affect the grant of benefits or tax exemptions to a religious organization. This chapter does not affect, interpret or in any way address those portions of the United States Constitution, Amendment I or the Constitution of Maine that prohibit laws respecting the establishment of religion. This chapter does not create or preclude a right of a religious organization to receive funding or other assistance from a government or of a person to receive government funding for a religious activity.
SUMMARY This bill creates the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which allows a person whose right to exercise the person’s religion is burdened by a government law or exercise of authority to bring an action in court seeking equitable or monetary damages unless the government remedies the burden or shows that the law or exercise of authority is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest.
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.