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 Pennsylvania, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 30 (age of majority, 18, plus 12 years).
SOL vs. perp: +12 years from majority = Age 30
SOL vs. employer: +12 years from majority = Age 30
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: No
SOL + 12 years from majority, age 30
Pennsylvania State Law Provides:
(1) (i) If an individual entitled to bring a civil action is an unemancipated minor at the time the cause of action accrues, the period of minority shall not be deemed a portion of the time period within which the action must be commenced. Such person shall have the same time for commencing an action after attaining majority as is allowed to others by the provisions of this subchapter.
(ii) As used in this paragraph, the term “minor” shall mean any individual who has not yet attained 18 years of age.
(2) (i) If an individual entitled to bring a civil action arising from childhood sexual abuse is under 18 years of age at the time the cause of action accrues, the individual shall have a period of 12 years after attaining 18 years of age in which to commence an action for damages regardless of whether the individual files a criminal complaint regarding the childhood sexual abuse.
(ii) For the purposes of this paragraph, the term “childhood sexual abuse” shall include, but not be limited to, the following sexual activities between a minor and an adult, provided that the individual bringing the civil action engaged in such activities as a result of forcible compulsion or by threat of forcible compulsion which would prevent resistance by a person of reasonable resolution:
(A) sexual intercourse, which includes penetration, however slight, of any body part or object into the sex organ of another;
(B) deviate sexual intercourse, which includes sexual intercourse per os or per anus; and
(C) indecent contact, which includes any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of the person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire in either person.
(iii) For purposes of this paragraph, “forcible compulsion” shall have the meaning given to it in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3101 (relating to definitions).
42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5533
Finding that repressed memory of child abuse would not toll statute of limitations until discovery of injury. Statutory tolling provision doesn’t apply retroactively to revive claims.
Dalrymple v. Brown, 701 A.2d 164, 167 (Pa. 1997)
Repressed memories could not justify tolling of SOL.
Aquillno v. Phila Catholic Archdiocese, 884 A.2d 1269, 1277 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2005)
Current Criminal SOL
In Pennsylvania, the criminal SOL is capped at age 50 (age of majority, 18, plus 32 years).
SOL vs. perp.: + 32 years from majority = Age 50
Pennsylvania State Law Provides:
DNA Exception: If a DNA test can identify an otherwise unidentifiable perpetrator, prosecution may be commenced within the previously stated statute of limitations, or one year after the identity of the perpetrator is discovered, whichever is later.
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.§ 5552(c.1) (2008).
If the period prescribed in subsection (a), (b) or (b.1) has expired, a prosecution may nevertheless be commenced for:
(1) Any offense a material element of which is either fraud or a breach of fiduciary obligation within one year after discovery of the offense by an aggrieved party or by a person who has a legal duty to represent an aggrieved party and who is himself not a party to the offense, but in no case shall this paragraph extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than three years.
(2) Any offense committed by a public officer or employee in the course of or in connection with his office or employment at any time when the defendant is in public office or employment or within five years thereafter, but in no case shall this paragraph extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than eight years.
(3) Any sexual offense committed against a minor who is less than 18 years of age any time up to the later of the period of limitation provided by law after the minor has reached 18 years of age or the date the minor reaches 50 years of age. As used in this paragraph, the term “sexual offense” means a crime under the following provisions of Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses):
Section 3011(b) (relating to trafficking in individuals).
Section 3012 (relating to involuntary servitude) as it relates to sexual servitude.
Section 3121 (relating to rape).
Section 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault).
Section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse).
Section 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault).
Section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault).
Section 3126 (relating to indecent assault).
Section 3127 (relating to indecent exposure).
Section 4302 (relating to incest).
Section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of children).
Section 6301 (relating to corruption of minors).
Section 6312(b)(relating to sexual abuse of children).
Section 6320 (relating to sexual exploitation of children)
42 Pa.C.S. § 5552
Age of Majority / Age of Consent / Age of Marriage
Age of Majority: 18. See, 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5101.
Age of Consent: 16. See, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3123.
Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 16 (under 16 with judicial consent).
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See, 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1304.
Medical Neglect Statute
CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
A child shall not be considered abused solely because their parents provided spiritual treatment consistent with sincerely held religious beliefs. However, the county has the authority to closely monitor the child and refer the parents to protective services. This exemption does not apply if the failure of providing medical care results in the child’s death.
Pennsylvania Law Provides:
If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of sincerely held religious beliefs of the child’s parents or relative within the third degree of consanguinity and with whom the child resides, which beliefs are consis¬tent with those of a bona fide religion, the child shall not be deemed to be physi¬cally or mental¬ly abused. In such cases the following shall apply:
(1) The county agency shall closely monitor the child and the child's family and shall seek court-ordered medical intervention when the lack of medical or surgical care threatens the child's life or long-term health.
(2) All correspondence with a subject of the report and the records of the department and the county agency shall not reference child abuse and shall acknowledge the religious basis for the child's condition.
(3) The family shall be referred for general protective services, if appropriate.
(4) This subsection shall not apply if the failure to provide needed medical or surgical care causes the death of the child.
(5) This subsection shall not apply to any child-care service as defined in this chapter, excluding an adoptive parent.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23 §6304(b)
CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE
There is no religious exemption to criminal liability for parents failing to provide medical care based on faith.
Pennsylvania Criminal Statute:
Current DNA Provision
*As of December 2018
(c.1) Genetic identification evidence.--Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, if evidence of a misdemeanor sexual offense set forth in subsection (c)(3) or a felony offense is obtained containing human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which is subsequently used to identify an otherwise unidentified individual as the perpetrator of the offense, the prosecution of the offense may be commenced within the period of limitations provided for the offense or one year after the identity of the individual is determined, whichever is later.
42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5552 (West)
Religous Liberty Statute
Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk
House Bill 1640 , introduced by Jefferson County Republican state Rep. Cris Dush, would encourage — but not require — that the national motto be posted in all public school buildings, along with the Bill of Rights.
View Bill [PDF Document]
Current Law: 71 P.S. § 2401-2407 (2002) – Enacted: December 9, 2002
§ 2401. SHORT TITLE This act shall be known and may be cited as the Religious Freedom Protection Act.
§ 2402. LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS The General Assembly finds and declares as follows:
(1) Laws and governmental actions which are facially neutral toward religion, as well as laws and governmental actions intended to interfere with religious exercise, may have the effect of substantially burdening the free exercise of religion. However, neither State nor local government should substantially burden the free exercise of religion without compelling justification.
(2) The General Assembly intends that all laws which it has heretofore enacted or will hereafter enact and all ordinances and regulations which have been or will be adopted by political subdivisions or executive agencies shall be construed so as to avoid the imposition of substantial burdens upon the free exercise of religion without compelling justification. Read More § 2403. DEFINITIONS The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
“AGENCY.” A COMMONWEALTH AGENCY OR A NON-COMMONWEALTH AGENCY. THE TERM SHALL NOT INCLUDE THE COURTS OF THIS COMMONWEALTH OR A GRAND JURY ACTING PURSUANT TO 42 PA.C.S. § 4548 (RELATING TO POWERS OF INVESTIGATING GRAND JURY). “COMMONWEALTH AGENCY.” THE COMMONWEALTH, INCLUDING THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT AND ITS BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS; AN INDEPENDENT ADMINISTRATIVE DEPARTMENT, BOARD AND COMMISSION; OR A PUBLIC OFFICIAL THEREOF, ACTING UNDER COLOR OF STATE LAW.
“CORRECTIONAL EMPLOYEE.” A PUBLIC OFFICIAL, EMPLOYEE, AGENT, CONTRACTOR OR VOLUNTEER WORKING FOR OR PROVIDING SERVICES RELATING TO A CORRECTIONAL FACILITY OR ITS INMATES.
“FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION.” THE PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF RELIGION UNDERSECTION 3 OF ARTICLE I OF THE CONSTITUTION OF PENNSYLVANIA.
“NON-COMMONWEALTH AGENCY.” A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION, MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY OR ANY OTHER LOCAL GOVERNMENT INSTRUMENTALITY AUTHORIZED BY LAW, OR A PUBLIC OFFICIAL THEREOF, ACTING UNDER THE COLOR OF STATE LAW.
“PERSON.” AN INDIVIDUAL OR A CHURCH, ASSOCIATION OF CHURCHES OR OTHER RELIGIOUS ORDER, BODY OR INSTITUTION WHICH QUALIFIES FOR EXEMPTION FROM TAXATION UNDER SECTION 501(C)(3) OR (D) OF THE INTERNAL REVENUE CODE OF 1986 (PUBLIC LAW 99-514, 26 U.S.C. § 501).
“SUBSTANTIALLY BURDEN.” AN AGENCY ACTION WHICH DOES ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(1) Significantly constrains or inhibits conduct or expression mandated by a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.
(2) Significantly curtails a person’s ability to express adherence to the person’s religious faith.
(3) Denies a person a reasonable opportunity to engage in activities which are fundamental to the person’s religion.
(4) Compels conduct or expression which violates a specific tenet of a person’s religious faith.
§ 2404. FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION PROTECTED (a) GENERAL RULE.– Except as provided in subsection (b), an agency shall not substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion, including any burden which results from a rule of general applicability.
(b) EXCEPTIONS.– An agency may substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion if the agency proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the burden is all of the following:
(1) In furtherance of a compelling interest of the agency. (2) The least restrictive means of furthering the compelling interest.
§ 2405. ACTIONS (a) CLAIM OR DEFENSE.– A person whose free exercise of religion has been burdened or likely will be burdened in violation of section 4 may assert that violation against an agency as a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding.
(b) NOTICE.– Notwithstanding subsection (a) and except as provided in subsection (c), a person may not bring an action in court to assert a claim under this act unless, at least 30 days prior to bringing the action, the person gives written notice to the agency by certified mail, return receipt requested, informing the agency of all of the following:
(1) The person’s free exercise of religion has been or is about to be substantially burdened by an exercise of the agency’s governmental authority.
(2) A description of the act or refusal to act which has burdened or will burden the person’s free exercise of religion.
(3) The manner in which the exercise of the governmental authority burdens the person’s free exercise of religion.
(c) EXCEPTION.– A person may bring an action in court without providing the notice required by subsection (b) if any of the following occur:
(1) The exercise of governmental authority which threatens to substantially burden the person’s free exercise of religion is imminent.
(2) The person was not informed and did not otherwise have knowledge of the exercise of the governmental authority in time to reasonably provide notice.
(3) The provision of the notice would delay an action to the extent that the action would be dismissed as untimely.
(4) The claim or defense is asserted as a counterclaim in a pending proceeding.
(d) LIMITATION.– Prior to the expiration of the 30-day period referred to in subsection (b), an agency which receives notice in accordance with subsection (b) may remedy the substantial burden on the person’s free exercise of religion.
(e) JURISDICTION.– A person alleging a violation of section 4 by a Commonwealth agency may bring an action in Commonwealth Court in accordance with this section and the applicable rules of court. In accordance with this section and applicable rules of court, a person alleging a violation of section 4 by a non-Commonwealth agency may bring an action in the court of common pleas for the county where the non-Commonwealth agency’s office is located.
(f) REMEDIES.– If a person asserts a claim or defense in accordance with this section and proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the person’s free exercise of religion has been burdened or likely will be burdened in violation of section 4, a court may award the person such declaratory or injunctive relief as may be appropriate. No court shall award monetary damages for a violation of this act. Unless the court finds that the actions of the agency were dilatory, obdurate or vexatious, no court shall award attorney fees for a violation of this act.
(g) INMATE CLAIMS.– To the extent permitted under the Federal law, an agency shall be deemed not to have violated the provisions of this act if a rule, policy, action, omission or regulation of a correctional facility or its correctional employees is reasonably related to legitimate penological interests, including the deterrence of crime, the prudent use of institutional resources, the rehabilitation of prisoners or institutional security.
§ 2406. APPLICABILITY (a) GENERAL RULE.– This act shall apply to any State or local law or ordinance and the implementation of that law or ordinance, whether statutory or otherwise and whether adopted or effective prior to or after the effective date of this act. Any law enacted by the General Assembly after the effective date of this act shall be subject to this act unless the General Assembly expressly excludes that law from this act by specific reference to this act. This act shall not apply to actions of the courts of this Commonwealth or to any rules of procedure or to common law adopted by the courts of this Commonwealth.
(b) EXCEPTIONS.– Notwithstanding subsection (a) and subject to existing religious exceptions, this act shall not apply to any of the following:
(1) Any criminal offense under 18 Pa.C.S. (relating to crimes and offenses) or under the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L. 233, No. 64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, which is graded as a felony or a misdemeanor.
(2) Any provision of 75 Pa.C.S. (relating to vehicles) which does any of the following:
(i) Requires the licensing of motor vehicle operators.
(ii) Requires the registration of motor vehicles.
(iii) Requires financial responsibility for motor vehicle accidents.
(iv) Protects the public from the unsafe operation of motor vehicles or from dangerous conditions on the highways.
(3) Any provision of law which requires physicians or professional nurses to be properly licensed in order to practice their profession.
(4) Any provision of the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L.31, No.21), known as the Public Welfare Code, which prevents the endangerment of the health or safety of individuals in facilities which are licensed or supervised under the Public Welfare Code.
(5) Any provision of the act of July 19, 1979 (P.L.130, No.48), known as the Health Care Facilities Act, which requires the safe construction or operation of licensed health care facilities.
(6) Any provision of the act of November 10, 1999 (P.L.491, No.45), known as the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act, which prevents the endangerment of health and safety.
(7) Any provision of law which requires the reporting of abuse.
§ 2407. CONSTRUCTION Nothing in this act shall be construed to authorize any government to prohibit or penalize the holding of any religious belief or to take any action contrary to the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of Pennsylvania. Nothing in this act shall be construed to require a religiously affiliated health care facility to provide, allow, participate in or refer for health care services which are contrary to the religious beliefs or practices of the facility, provided that the facility shall provide notice to its patients of its policies regarding those health care services.
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.