Wisconsin

 
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A statute of limitations (or SOL), simply, is the maximum amount of time one has to bring a lawsuit from the time of the injury or other ground for a lawsuit.

SOLs vary from state to state and from claim to claim. For example, a SOL for a lawsuit about a contract may be different from a lawsuit about a personal injury and both may be of varying durations between different states. The statute of limitations may also be set to begin running at different times. Some SOLs begin running at the time of the injury and others begin running when the injury is discovered. In cases with minors, the SOL is “tolled” or doesn’t begin to run until the minor turns 18.

Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitation and Related Laws

Current Civil SOL

In Wisconsin, the SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 35 (age of majority, 18, plus 17 years).

SOL vs. perp.: Age 35
SOL vs. employer: + 2 years from majority = Age 20
Majority Tolling: Age 18
Discovery Tolling: None, except for incest survivors, then knowledge only (narrow)– LIMITED discovery tolling only available to incest survivors. but not fraud claims as they are not)


Wisconsin State Law Provides:

Sexual assault of a child

An action to recover damages for injury caused by an act that would constitute a violation of s. 948.02, 948.025, 948.06, 948.085, or 948.095 or would create a cause of action under s. 895.442 shall be commenced before the injured party reaches the age of 35 years or be barred.

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 893.587

Sexual abuse of a child

Because None of the statutes listed in Wis. Stat. § 893.587 referred to the act complained of in the complaint, i.e., that an archdiocese made fraudulent misrepresentations that it did not know that priests had histories of sexually abusing children and did not know the priests were dangerous to children, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of a child did not apply to the fraud claims against the archdiocese.

John Doe 1 v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 303 Wis.2d 34 (2007)

Miscellaneous Actions

The following actions shall be commenced within 6 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred . . . An action for relief on the ground of fraud. The cause of action in such case is not deemed to have accrued until the discovery, by the aggrieved party, of the facts constituting the fraud.

Wis. Stat. Ann. § 893.93(1)(B)

TOLLING

  1. Majority,

a. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 893.16(1)

  1. Discovery, No, EXCEPT as to incest survivors, then knowledge only (narrow)– LIMITED discovery tolling only available to incest survivors

a. We hold that a claim of repressed memory of past sexual abuse does not delay the accrual of a cause of action for non-incestuous sexual assault, regardless of the victim’s Majority and the position of trust occupied by the alleged perpetrator.
John Doe 1 v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee (Wisc. 2007)

i. Sexual assault of a child; limitation: An action to recover damages for injury caused by an act that would constitute a violation of s. 948.02, 948.025, 948.06, 948.085, or 948.095 or would create a cause of action under s. 895.442 shall be commenced before the injured party reaches the age of 35 years or be barred. (Held to be its own SOR outside of incent context).
Wis. Stat. § 893.587

b. Discovery rule for incest survivors: does not mean that a plaintiff can delay action until the extent of the injury is known, but only, consistent with the explanation of the discovery rule that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff has sufficient evidence that a wrong has indeed been committed by an identified person.
Cheryl D. v. Estate of Robert D.B.

c. We hold, as a matter of law, that a cause of action for incestuous abuse will not accrue until the victim discovers, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the fact and cause of the injury.
Byearne v. Bercker (Wis. 1993)

Current Criminal SOL

In Wisconsin, there is no criminal SOL for the felonies of first degree sexual assault, attempted first degree sexual assault and engaging in repeated acts of sexual assault. The criminal SOL for felonies of second degree sexual assault, class C felonies, physical abuse of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, patronizing a child, solicitation of a child for prostitution, child enticement, incest, and trafficking, is capped at age 45 (age of majority, 18, plus 27 years). The criminal SOL for misdemeanors is capped at age 21 (age of majority, 18, plus three years).

NONE for felonies of: first degree sexual assault, attempted first degree sexual assault and engaging in repeated acts of sexual assault.
SOL for felonies of: second degree sexual assault, class C felony, physical abuse of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, patronizing a child, solicitation of a child for prostitution, child enticement, incest, and trafficking, is capped at Age 45.
SOL for misdemeanors vs. perp.: + 3 years from majority, or commission of the act = Age 21
Victim’s age 45 for most other crimes.


Wisconsin State Law Provides:

Victim’s age 45 for most other crimes.
Wis. Stat. § 939.74 (2)(a)

Notwithstanding that the time limitation under sub. (1) has expired:

  1. A prosecution under s. 940.01, 940.02, 940.03, 940.05, 940.225 (1), 948.02 (1), or 948.025 (1) (a), (b), (c), or (d) may be commenced at any time.

  2. A prosecution for an attempt to commit a violation of s. 940.01, 940.05, 940.225 (1), or 948.02 (1) may be commenced at any time.

Wis. Stat. § 939.74 (2) (a)(1)-(2)

Sexual Assault

(1)  First degree sexual assault

(a) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person without consent of that person and causes pregnancy or great bodily harm to that person.
(b) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person without consent of that person by use or threat of use of a dangerous weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim reasonably to believe it to be a dangerous weapon.
(c) Is aided or abetted by one or more other persons and has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person without consent of that person by use or threat of force or violence.

(2)  Second degree sexual assault

(a) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person without consent of that person by use or threat of force or violence.
(b) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person without consent of that person and causes injury, illness, disease or impairment of a sexual or reproductive organ, or mental anguish requiring psychiatric care for the victim.
(c) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who suffers from a mental illness or deficiency which renders that person temporarily or permanently incapable of appraising the person's conduct, and the defendant knows of such condition.

(cm) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who is under the influence of an intoxicant to a degree which renders that person incapable of giving consent if the defendant has actual knowledge that the person is incapable of giving consent and the defendant has the purpose to have sexual contact or sexual intercourse with the person while the person is incapable of giving consent.
(d) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who the defendant knows is unconscious.
(f) Is aided or abetted by one or more other persons and has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of that person.
(g) Is an employee of a facility or program under s. 940.295 (2) (b), (c), (h) or (k) and has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who is a patient or resident of the facility or program.
(h) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an individual who is confined in a correctional institution if the actor is a correctional staff member. This paragraph does not apply if the individual with whom the actor has sexual contact or sexual intercourse is subject to prosecution for the sexual contact or sexual intercourse under this section.
(i) Has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an individual who is on probation, parole, or extended supervision if the actor is a probation, parole, or extended supervision agent who supervises the individual, either directly or through a subordinate, in his or her capacity as a probation, parole, or extended supervision agent or who has influenced or has attempted to influence another probation, parole, or extended supervision agent's supervision of the individual. This paragraph does not apply if the individual with whom the actor has sexual contact or sexual intercourse is subject to prosecution for the sexual contact or sexual intercourse under this section.
(j) Is a licensee, employee, or nonclient resident of an entity, as defined in s. 48.685 (1) (b) or 50.065 (1) (c), and has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a client of the entity.

(3)  Third degree sexual assault

(a) Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person without the consent of that person is guilty of a Class G felony.
(b) Whoever has sexual contact in the manner described in sub. (5) (b) 2. or 3. with a person without the consent of that person is guilty of a Class G felony.

(3m)  Fourth degree sexual assault. Except as provided in sub. (3), whoever has sexual contact with a person without the consent of that person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

(4)  Consent

“Consent", as used in this section, means words or overt actions by a person who is competent to give informed consent indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact. Consent is not an issue in alleged violations of sub. (2) (c), (cm), (d), (g), (h), and (i). The following persons are presumed incapable of consent but the presumption may be rebutted by competent evidence, subject to the provisions of s. 972.11 (2):
(b) A person suffering from a mental illness or defect which impairs capacity to appraise personal conduct.
(c) A person who is unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.

(6) Marriage not a bar to prosecution

A defendant shall not be presumed to be incapable of violating this section because of marriage to the complainant.

(7) Death of victim

This section applies whether a victim is dead or alive at the time of the sexual contact or sexual intercourse.

§ 940.225

First Degree Sexual Assault of a Child

(1)(am) Whoever has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who has not attained the age of 13 years and causes great bodily harm to the person is guilty of a Class A felony.
(b) Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who has not attained the age of 12 years is guilty of a Class B felony.
(c) Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who has not attained the age of 16 years by use or threat of force or violence is guilty of a Class B felony.
(d) Whoever has sexual contact with a person who has not attained the age of 16 years by use or threat of force or violence is guilty of a Class B felony if the actor is at least 18 years of age when the sexual contact occurs.
(e) Whoever has sexual contact with a person who has not attained the age of 13 years is guilty of a Class B felony.

§ 948.02

Engaging in repeated acts of sexual assault of the same child

(1) Whoever commits 3 or more violations under s. 948.02 (1) or (2) within a specified period of time involving the same child is guilty of:

(a) A Class A felony if at least 3 of the violations were violations of s. 948.02 (1) (am).
(b) A Class B felony if at least 3 of the violations were violations of s. 948.02 (1) (am), (b), or (c).
(c) A Class B felony if at least 3 of the violations were violations of s. 948.02 (1) (am), (b), (c), or (d).
(d) A Class B felony if at least 3 of the violations were violations of s. 948.02 (1).
(e) A Class C felony if at least 3 of the violations were violations of s. 948.02 (1) or (2). (SOL for this subsection e is likely to age 45).

§ 948.02

Age of Majority: 18, unless being prosecuted or a civil defendant (then 17). See, Wis. Stat. Ann. § 938.02(1).
Age of Consent: 16. See, Wis. Stat. Ann. § 948.02.

Age of Marriage with Parental Consent: 16.
Age of Marriage without Parental Consent: 18.
See, Wis. Stat. Ann. § 765.02.


Medical Neglect Statute

CIVIL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE

A parent shall not be held liable for child abuse or neglect solely for providing, in good faith, religious means of health treatment.

Wisconsin Civil Statute:
[A] determination that abuse or neglect has occurred may not be based solely on the fact that the child’s parent, guardi¬an or legal custodian in good faith selects and relies on prayer or other religious means for treatment of disease or for remedial care of the child.
Wisconsin Statutes §48.981(3)(c)(4)

CRIMINAL MEDICAL NEGLECT STATUTE

A parent shall not be held liable for child abuse solely for providing their child with spiritual treatment in accordance with a recognized method of religious healing. However, common law states this exemption does not apply to life-threatening diseases.

Wisconsin Law Provides:
WISCONSIN defense to criminal child abuse
A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing permitted under s.48.981(3)( c)(4) or 448.03(6) in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.
Wisconsin Statutes §948.03(6)

In 2013 the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld convictions of parents who had let their daughter die of untreated diabetes on religious grounds and ruled that the religious defense did not apply to children with life-threatening illnesses. One justice dissented concluding, “I cannot say that the result of the Newman trials is unjust. Nonetheless, there were and are serious deficiencies in the law and they ought to be addressed by the legislature and the courts.” State v. Neumann, 832 NW2d 560 (Wisc. 2013)


Religous Liberty Statute

Religious liberty statute that could put children at risk

No law as of January 2014


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.