A statute of limitations (SOL) sets the amount of time a victim or prosecutor has to file a lawsuit. Typically, if you file a lawsuit after the SOL expires, your case will be dismissed. Colorado has different criminal and civil sexual abuse statutes of limitations.
Depending on the timing of your abuse, different statutes of limitations may apply. Colorado law assigns different filing deadlines to adult and child sexual abuse cases. Additionally, the statute of limitations that applies is the one that existed at the time of your abuse. This means that even though the SOL may have been lengthened since the incident, it typically will not renew time-barred cases.
Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Abuse
In a civil lawsuit, a victim of sexual abuse demands compensation and damages from his or her abuser. You may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for your pain and suffering.
In Colorado, a civil sexual abuse case must be filed within:
- In childhood sexual abuse cases, six years from either:
- The victim’s 18th birthday, or
- The date when the victim was no longer dependent upon the abuser, and
- Six years from the event for adult sexual abuse cases.
If sexual abuse occurs at your workplace, you may also have a sexual harassment lawsuit under federal law. You must file a complaint (or charge) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the sexual abuse or harassment.
The EEOC will investigate your claim and determine whether it will pursue a lawsuit on your behalf. If it decides not to litigate your claim, it will issue a Right to Sue letter. You must file a lawsuit within 90 days of the EEOC’s Right to Sue letter.
Criminal Cases for Sexual Abuse
Criminal cases are filed by the State of Colorado on behalf of a victim. In order to file criminal charges, you must notify law enforcement of the sexual abuse. The authorities will investigate your claims and a prosecutor may file charges against your abuser. If a suspect is found guilty of criminal conduct, he or she may be sentenced to significant jail time and sex offender registration.
In Colorado, the criminal statute of limitations varies depending on the age of the victim. The criminal statutes of limitations include:
- Sexual abuse of a child under 15 years old: no statute of limitations
- Other sexual abuse: 20 years.
The criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases was doubled in 2016. However, this new law is not retroactive. If your claim predates 2016, a criminal case must be filed within 10 years.
Other Compensation for Crime Victims
Colorado also offers compensation for sexual abuse victims through its Crime Victim Compensation Fund. The Fund gives financial assistance for medical bills and other crime-related expenses (up to $20,000) to victims of violent crimes. However, to be eligible for these benefits, you must report the abuse within 72 hours to law enforcement and file an application with the Fund within a year of the incident.
Unlike most states, Colorado’s Crime Victim Fund is decentralized and a single commission or board does not review and approve applications. Instead, you must apply for benefits in the judicial district where the crime occurred.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Sexual assault and abuse claims are emotionally difficult—and too often go unreported. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process, educate you about your rights, and offer emotional support. A lawyer can also ensure that you receive just compensation for your injuries. If you are facing sexual abuse charges and prosecution, a criminal lawyer can help you understand your rights. Time is of the essence, so talk to an attorney as soon as possible.