Pending legislation on statute of limitations
When an adult survivor discloses her/his abuse and begins her/his healing journey, the
question that often arises is: can criminal charges be filed against my abuser? Determining if the survivor is within the
statue of limitations can be confusing and somewhat daunting. The first step a survivor
needs to take to determine if a criminal lawsuit is possible is to call the District Attorney’s
Office in the County in which the abuse occurred. The DA determines whether to bring criminal charges and
whether the statute of limitations still allows time to file charges.
FAQs On Statute of Limitations in Child Abuse Cases
Q: How long does the Commonwealth now have to file criminal charges in a criminal
case involving child abuse?
A: In general the statute of limitations was extended in 2007 to give the Commonwealth
until the child victim’s 50th birthday, to file charges.
Q: What bill extended the statute of limitations in criminal
child abuse cases?
A: The statute of limitations was extended as part of a comprehensive
package of amendments to various statutes related to child abuse. The
amendment to 42 Pa.C.S.A. 5552(c)(3) is found in Act 179 of 2006
(formerly Senate Bill 1054).
Q: When does the change in the statute of limitations take effect?
A: The law became effective January 28, 2007.
Q: What criminal charges are covered?
A: As in prior law, the special statute of limitations for sexual
offenses committed against minors applies to the following charges:
rape, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent
assault, indecent exposure, incest, endangering the welfare of children,
corruption of minors, sexual abuse of children, sexual exploitation of children.
Q: What cases will benefit from passage of 2007 legislation to extend the statute of limitations?
A: The new statute of limitations applies to any case in which the
statute of limitations had not yet expired before the new law took effect.
Pursuant to Com. v. Harvey, 542 A.2d 1027 (Pa. Super. 1988), time for
prosecution may be extended by a legislative change if the prior period
has not yet expired. To determine whether the statute has expired, the
date of the victim’s 18th birthday is more important than the date of
the commission of the offense.
On August 27, 2002, the statute of limitations for child sexual
abuse was extended to 12 years after the victim’s 18th birthday.
(Before that amendment, the statute of limitations was 5 years after
the victim’s 18th birthday). That change in the statute of limitations
applied to cases in which a child victim turned 18 on or after August 27,
2002. Since the 12-year period has not yet expired before the new law
took effect, the statute of limitations for cases under the 2002
amendment has now been extended to the victim’s 50th birthday.
For cases involving child victims who turn 18 on or after August 27,
2002, the Commonwealth now has until the victim’s 50th birthday to
file criminal charges for abuse that occurred before the victim turned 18.
Source: Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
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