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 New Hampshire, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 30 (age of majority, 18, plus 12 years). There is also a discovery rule, which allows victims up to 3 years to file a claim after discovering an injury caused by the abuse.
SOL vs. perp: +12 years from majority = Age 30
SOL vs. employer: +12 years from majority = Age 30
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Liberal (+3 years)
SOL: +12 years from majority or +3 years form liberal discovery whichever is later.
New Hampshire State Law Provides:
Actions Based on Sexual Assault and Related Offenses.
A person, alleging to have been subjected to any offense under RSA 632-A or an offense under RSA 639:2, who was under 18 years of age when the alleged offense occurred, may commence a personal action based on the incident within the later of:
I. Twelve years of the person's eighteenth birthday; or
II. Three years of the time the plaintiff discovers, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury and its causal relationship to the act or omission complained of. N.H. Rev. Stat. § 508:4-g
Majority, yes 18. N.H. Rev.Stat.Ann 508:4-g (I).
Discovery, yes, liberal
Current Criminal SOL
In New Hampshire, the criminal SOL for felony sex abuse is capped at age 40 (age of majority, 18, plus 22 years), age 24 (age of majority, 18, plus six years) for all other felony crimes, and age 19 (age of majority, 18, plus one year) for all misdemeanors.
SOL vs. perp. (for felony sex abuse): + 22 years from majority = Age 40
SOL vs. perp. (for all other felony crimes): + 6 years from majority = Age 24
SOL vs. perp. (for all misdemeanors): + 1 year from majority = Age 19
New Hampshire State Law Provides:
I. Except as otherwise provided in this section, prosecutions are subject to the following periods of limitations:
(a) For a class A felony, 6 years;
(b) For a class B felony, 6 years;
(c) For a misdemeanor, one year;
(d) For a violation, 3 months.
(e) For an offense defined by RSA 282-A, 6 years.
III. If the period prescribed in paragraph I has expired, a prosecution may nevertheless be commenced:
(d) For any offense under RSA 632-A or for an offense under RSA 639:2, where the victim was under 18 years of age when the alleged offense occurred, within 22 years of the victim's eighteenth birthday.
N.H. Rev. Stat. § 625:8
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18. See, N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 508:4-g.
Age of Consent: 16. See, N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 632-A:2.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 14 for men; 13 for women.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See, N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 457.4, 457.5.
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A child shall not be considered neglected solely because their parents provide spiritual treatment in accordance with a recognized church, by an accredited practitioner.
New Hampshire Civil Statute:
[N]o child who is, in good faith, 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 to be a neglected child under this chapter.
New Hampshire Revised Statutes §169-C:3(XIX)(c)
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A parent shall not be found liable to child endangerment solely for practicing the tenets of a recognized religion.
New Hampshire Criminal Statute:
NEW HAMPSHIRE defense to child endangerment
A person who pursuant to the tenets of a recognized religion fails to conform to an otherwise existing duty of care or protection is not guilty of an offense under this section.
New Hampshire Revised Statutes §639:3
Current DNA Provision
*As of December 2018
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.