Statutes of limitations are laws that prescribe specific time frames for how long an individual or a prosecutor has to file a claim or charge before they are barred. The time period will vary depending on the type of claim or charge and jurisdiction.
In California, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes will vary depending on whether a criminal or civil action is being filed. The time limit may also vary depending on the age of the victim and whether they were a child or an adult.
Under the California Penal Code, prosecutors are required to file charges within ten years of an offense if the victim was an adult. If the victim was a child or a minor under the age of majority when the offense occurred, the prosecutor has until the victim’s 40th birthday to file charges.
It is important to note that there are two exceptions to these statutes of limitations. Even if the limitations period has expired, a prosecutor can still file charges if they obtain independent supporting evidence of the offense. They can also file charges if they are filed in compliance with California’s DNA exception rule.
With civil cases that involve sexual abuse crimes, the California Code of Civil Procedure provides that an individual may file an action for recovery of damages within ten years from the date of the offense if they were an adult at the time or within three years from the date that they discovered or reasonably should have discovered an injury or illness which resulted from the offense if they were an adult at the time and the incident occurred before 2019.
Similar to the limitations provided in the California criminal code, a victim who is or was a child at the time of the offense has until their 40th birthday to file a civil action or within five years of the discovery of the abuse.
Additionally, the statute of limitations was updated in 2020, which makes it possible to revive a claim that was previously barred by the old statute as long as it is filed within three years. Typically, most civil claims involving sexual abuse offenses follow the same statute of limitations.
It is important to note that the statute of limitations in California for sexual harassment varies greatly. An individual who needs to file a claim of sexual harassment has one year from the date of the last incident and six months if they are submitting a report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Civil Lawsuits and Criminal Prosecutions for Sexual Abuse in California
Generally, the difference between criminal and civil cases is that a criminal case is filed by the state in order to punish a defendant for a criminal offense, and a civil case is filed by a private individual who is seeking damages for their injuries. In California, there are also other factors that differentiate criminal and civil proceedings for sexual abuse in California.
As noted above, the time limit that the prosecution will have to file charges varies depending on the crime that was committed. For example, in contrast to sexual abuse, there is no statute of limitations on sodomy or rape if they occurred after January 2017.
The statute of limitations will continue to pass for civil lawsuits regardless of whether or not criminal charges are filed. The closer to an incident that an individual can bring an action, the more likely that their case will be preserved and will be successful.
Another important difference between criminal and civil cases is the standard of proof. In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove all elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a civil case, the plaintiff is required to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the offense occurred and the plaintiff suffered injury. If the victim in an offense was a child, courts may implement certain protection measures.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Rape?
Under the California Penal Code, there are no time restrictions for certain sex crimes that were committed after January 1, 2017, including:
- California rape;
- Gang rape;
- Sodomy with an individual under 18;
- Oral copulation with an individual under 18;
- Lewd and lascivious act with an individual under 14;
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child; and
- Sexual penetration against the will of the victim.
This means that a prosecutor may bring charges for these offenses at any time during the life of the perpetrator. However, if the offense occurred prior to January 1, 2017, the previous statute of limitations discussed above will apply.
If an individual has any questions regarding the statute of limitations on California sex crimes, they should consult with a local California lawyer.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Statutory Rape in California?
Statutory rape is the criminal offense of having unlawful sex with a minor. Statutory rape laws are in place because minors cannot legally consent to engage in sexual conduct and, therefore, require legal protections.
In California, the statute of limitations on statutory rape is either one year for a misdemeanor offense or three years for a felony offense. The offense will be charged as a felony if the minor was three years or younger in age than the offender or if the minor was under 16 years of age and the offender was at least 21 years of age.
Whether to charge statutory rape as a misdemeanor is at the discretion of the prosecutor. The prosecution may consider numerous factors in order to make their decision, including:
- The defendant’s age;
- The strength of their case;
- The severity of the crime;
- The likelihood that the defendant will continue committing the same offenses; and
- Whether or not the defendant was a repeat offender.
What Is California’s Statute of Limitations Regarding Child Molestation?
The laws in the State of California have been recently updated to lengthen the amount of time that a child victim has to bring their claim. Under this new statute, a child victim or a victim who was a child when the incident occurred has until their 40th birthday to file an action or five years from the time they discover or reasonably should have discovered a resulting injury or illness.
For example, if a child was 12 years of age at the time the molestation occurred, they have until they are 40 years of age to file a claim. In the alternative, there may not be any injuries discovered, such as psychological injuries discovered by a therapist, until the victim is 41 years of age. If that is the case, they will have five years to file a claim based upon the new information.
If a victim is over 40, they will need to provide a special certification from their therapist stating why the harm could not have been discovered earlier. In addition, their attorney will be required to provide a statement saying they have reviewed the therapist’s findings and the case and have determined the case has merit.
There may also be different legal consequences and requirements for child molestation incidents that fall under California’s criminal statute for lewd acts with a minor child.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Assault?
In California, if an individual was an adult at the time the sexual assault occurred, they can make a claim within ten years of the incident or within three years after the discovery of any illness or injury resulting from the assault.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Sexual Battery?
In California, a prosecutor must charge an alleged perpetrator of sexual battery and file charges by the victim’s 40th birthday if the victim was under 18 years of age when the offense happened. If the victim was an adult, the prosecutor must file charges within ten years of the offense.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help With California Sexual Abuse Statutes?
If you have been a victim of any type of sexual abuse in California, it is essential to consult with a California criminal lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you regarding filing criminal charges or a civil claim in order to recover damages.
It is also important to consult with an attorney, as the sexual abuse statutes in California have recently been updated. Your lawyer can explain the new laws, address any questions or concerns you may have, and help you file your claims.
If the statute of limitations has expired in your case, your lawyer can advise you regarding whether or not other options may be available for relief. You may have been accused of perpetrating a sexual abuse crime in California. If so, it is essential to consult with a lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the criminal process.