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 Jersey, the civil SOL is capped at age 20 (age of majority, 18, plus 2 years). There is also a discovery rule, which allows victims up to 2 years to file a claim after discovering an injury caused by the abuse.
SOL vs. perp, employer: (discovery, plus, an additional 2 years)
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: Liberal
SOL: plus, an additional 2 years form liberal discovery, all claims.
New Jersey State Law Provides:
Definitions; civil remedy; period of limitations; evidence; closed circuit testimony; confidentiality; in camera proceedings; damages
a. As used in this act:
(1) “Sexual abuse” means an act of sexual contact or sexual penetration between a child under the age of 18 years and an adult. A parent, resource family parent, guardian or other person standing in loco parentis within the household who knowingly permits or acquiesces in sexual abuse by any other person also commits sexual abuse, except that it is an affirmative defense if the parent, resource family parent, guardian or other person standing in loco parentis was subjected to, or placed in, reasonable fear of physical or sexual abuse by the other person so as to undermine the person's ability to protect the child.
b. In any civil action for injury or illness based on sexual abuse, the cause of action shall accrue at the time of reasonable discovery of the injury and its causal relationship to the act of sexual abuse. Any such action shall be brought within two years after reasonable discovery.
Majority, yes, 18.
N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:61B-1(a)(1)
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 9:17B-3 (majority at 18)
. Discovery, yes, liberal.
N.J. Stat. § 2A:61B-1(b)
Finding that under “reasonable discovery” accrual standard in N. J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:61B-1(b), plaintiffs could have conscious memory of sexual abuse, but might not have reasonably discovered that serious psychological and mental illness injury they suffered from was caused by that sexual abuse.
J.L. v. J.F., 317 N.J. Super. 418, 431-34, 722 A.2d 558 (N.J. App. Div. 1999)
Current Criminal SOL
In New Jersey, there is no criminal SOL for felony or aggravated sexual assault. For all other crimes, the criminal SOL is capped at age 23 (age of majority, 18, plus five years) or two years following discovery of aggravated criminal sexual conduct, criminal sexual conduct and endangering welfare of children.
NONE for felony sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault.
SOL vs. perp. (for all other crimes): + 5 years from age of majority = Age 23, or, + 2 years following discovery of aggravated criminal sexual conduct, criminal sexual conduct and endangering welfare of children.
New Jersey State Law Provides:
(1)A prosecution for any offense set forth in N.J.S.2C:11-3, N.J.S.2C:11-4, N.J.S.2C:14-2 or sections 1 through 5 of P.L.2002, c.26 (C.2C:38-1 through C.2C:38-5) may be commenced at any time.
(4) A prosecution for an offense set forth in N.J.S.2C:14-3 or N.J.S.2C:24-4, when the victim at the time of the offense is below the age of 18 years, must be commenced within five years of the victim’s attaining the age of 18 or within two years of the discovery of the offense by the victim, whichever is later;”) N.J. Stat. § 2C:1-6
(a) An actor is guilty of aggravated sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual penetration with another person under any one of the following circumstances:
(1) The victim is less than 13 years old;
(2) The victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years old; and (a) The actor is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the third degree, or (b) The actor has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional, or occupational status, or (c) The actor is a resource family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household
(b). An actor is guilty of sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual contact with a victim who is less than 13 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim.
(c). An actor is guilty of sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual penetration with another person under any one of the following circumstances:
(1) The actor uses physical force or coercion, but the victim does not sustain severe personal injury;
(2) The victim is on probation or parole, or is detained in a hospital, prison or other institution and the actor has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the actor’s legal, professional or occupational status;
(3) The victim is at least 16 but less than 18 years old and:
(a) The actor is related to the victim by blood or affinity to the third degree; or
(b) The actor has supervisory or disciplinary power of any nature or in any capacity over the victim; or
(c) The actor is a resource family parent, a guardian, or stands in loco parentis within the household
(4) The victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years old and the actor is at least four years older than the victim.
N.J. Stat. § 2C:14
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18. See, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 9:17B-3.
Age of Consent: 16. See, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:14-2.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 16 (under 16 with judicial consent).
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 37:1-6.
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A child shall not be considered neglected or abused solely because their parents provide spiritual treatment in accordance with the practices of a recognized religion. However, this exemption does not apply when laws related to communicable diseases and sanitary matters are violated.
New Jersey Civil Statute:
[N]o child who in good faith is under treatment by spiritual means alone through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall for this reason alone be considered to be abused or neglected.
New Jersey Revised Statutes §9:6-8.21(1)(c)
The article to which this act is a supplement shall not be construed to deny the right of a parent, guardian or person having the care, custody and control of any child to treat or provide treatment for an ill child in accordance with the religious tenets of any church as authorized by other statutes of this State; provided, that the laws, rules, and regulations relating to communicable diseases and sanitary matters are not violated.
New Jersey Revised Statutes §9:6-1.1
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
There is a religious exemption to child endangerment for those with a legal duty to care for the child.
New Jersey Civil Statute:
NEW JERSEY defense to child endangerment
Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child. . . who causes the child harm that would make the child an abused or neglected child as defined in R.S.9:6-1, R.S.9:6-3 and P.L. 1974, c. 119, s. 1 (C.9:6-8.21) is guilty of a crime of the second degree.
New Jersey Statutes §2C:24-4
Note: C.9:6-8.21 is a religious exemption to child abuse and neglect.
Current DNA Provision
*As of December 2018
c. An offense is committed either when every element occurs or, if a legislative purpose to prohibit a continuing course of conduct plainly appears, at the time when the course of conduct or the defendant's complicity therein is terminated. Time starts to run on the day after the offense is committed, except that when the prosecution is supported by physical evidence that identifies the actor by means of DNA testing or fingerprint analysis, time does not start to run until the State is in possession of both the physical evidence and the DNA or fingerprint evidence necessary to establish the identification of the actor by means of comparison to the physical evidence.
N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:1-6 (West)
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.