What Is the Statute of Limitations for Child Abuse?
The statute of limitations for child abuse in the United States varies greatly by state, though the majority of states have similar laws in place. In federal cases, according to U.S. Code 18 Section 3283, the statute of limitations is for as long as the victim is alive or for 10 years after the event, whichever is longer. Almost every state waits to begin timing until after the child victim reaches the age of majority. While several states have adopted a tolling doctrine or have extended the time limit during which a victim can bring a civil case to court, only a handful of states have no time limit.
Most statutes of limitation for child abuse do not begin until the child has reached the age of majority, commonly 18 years old. This is because a minor cannot typically take any legal action until that time. In some states, the statute of limitations begins timing once the child leaves the care of the adult in question. This law typically only applies to cases in which legal emancipation has taken place.
Following the discovery of the tendency of child abuse victims — especially those who were sexually abused — to repress memories of their abuse, many states adopted a tolling doctrine. While the specifics vary by jurisdiction, the basic premise is that the statute of limitations for child abuse does not begin timing until the victim remembers the abuse. The legal argument for this doctrine is based on the idea that memory repression is a mental health issue that essentially keeps the victim from being legally able to take any action, similar to the argument that allows timing to begin only after the victim has reached the age of majority. At least 42 states have enacted a tolling doctrine for child abuse cases.
While the statute of limitations for child abuses cases varies greatly by state, there are a few that have no limitations. In Texas, the time limit is determined on a case-by-case basis. Florida has a seven-year statute of limitations, though sexual abuse has no limitation. In California, the statute of limitations for child abuse and sexual abuse is eight years. Overall laws range from two years to 17 years or more after the victim reaches the age of majority.
Child abuse, considered one of the most horrendous crimes in almost every society, is handled differently in almost every state in the U.S. The only commonality between these laws is that timing begins at the age of majority and excessively horrendous crimes, which are typically determined by a judge, can cause the time limit to be waived. Some state laws are controversial, and many child protective agencies are pushing for the federal statute of limitations for child abuse to be the law in every state.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Statute of Limitations on Child Abuse?
The Statute of Limitations (SOL) for child abuse is the legal time limit for when a lawsuit may be filed. Each state has its own SOL, and in some cases, the SOL may vary depending on the type of abuse. Generally, the SOL for civil lawsuits involving child abuse is between two and six years from when the victim reaches the age of majority (18 in the US). In some cases, the SOL may be extended if the victim was a minor at the time of the abuse, or if the abuser was in a position of trust or authority.
Does the Statute of Limitations on Child Abuse Ever Expire?
Yes, the Statute of Limitations for child abuse does expire. The SOL is different for each state, and in some cases, for different types of abuse. Generally, the SOL for civil lawsuits involving child abuse is between two and six years from when the victim reaches the age of majority (18 in the US). However, the SOL may be extended depending on the circumstances of the case.
Does the Statute of Limitations on Child Abuse Change by State?
Yes, the Statute of Limitations (SOL) for child abuse may vary by state. Some states have longer SOLs than others, and the SOL may differ depending on the type of abuse. Generally, the SOL for civil lawsuits involving child abuse is between two and six years from when the victim reaches the age of majority (18 in the US). In some cases, the SOL may be extended if the victim was a minor at the time of the abuse, or if the abuser was in a position of trust or authority.
Does the Statute of Limitations on Child Abuse Apply to Criminal Cases?
Generally, the Statute of Limitations (SOL) for criminal cases involving child abuse is longer than the SOL for civil cases. The SOL for criminal cases may vary by state, but it is typically longer than the SOL for civil cases. In some cases, the SOL may be extended if the victim was a minor at the time of the abuse, or if the abuser was in a position of trust or authority. Additionally, certain states allow cases to be brought after the SOL has expired under specific conditions.
Can the Statute of Limitations on Child Abuse be Waived?
In some cases, the Statute of Limitations (SOL) on child abuse can be waived. This may happen if the victim was a minor at the time of the abuse, or if the abuser was in a position of trust or authority. In addition, some states have laws that allow cases to be brought after the SOL has expired if certain conditions are met. It is important to note that the SOL for criminal cases is usually longer than the SOL for civil cases, so it may be possible to pursue a criminal case even if the SOL for a civil case has expired.
My children were hit with a tree limb while I was asleep. I found out when my son got scared his little brother was bleeding. His family has money, so I got punished for saying something. How do you fix that?
Sure until death, as long as there is actual physical evidence to prove abuse either physical or sexual. As far as mental abuse, that's also easily documented if there was actual mental abuse.
Several cousins now claim that my aunt and uncle used to "box my ears", as well as cause my older brother to hit me so that they "can take his side" and hit me.
That was over 30 years ago.
Can a 95-year-old school teacher (my aunt) and 70--year-old cousins now be prosecuted?
I had remembered falling asleep during Perry Mason TV show, not getting attacked from behind by a grown man and his family.
My family always played favorite child, since my brother "was great" and I wasn't!
Then let the court decide. No statutes. Make the federal mandate No SOL ever. Let the court decide! Victims don’t come out of deep trauma sometimes until decades later. The worst cases can be so long.
A person who has been abused should be able to charge offender until they die. But what about the ones who are innocent? Have you ever kicked a child out at 18 for bad behavior in the home and around your other younger children, only for them to come back with the threat taking you to court and accusing you of something you did not do unless you meet their demands? Then they go around telling everyone and getting pity, getting attention for themselves for the things they did to get kicked out of the home.
It has been a repeating pattern. The relationship is broken and seems unfixable. The lie has grown so big now, the child will not admit it is a lie. It started about three years ago and we just stopped initiating contact. However, every once in a while, there is some form of contact, with a threat of the same nature, unless we meet some demand, from not being allowed to talk to certain people to sending money.
I love the child who is now an adult, but the bad habits and actions are still there. This child has been in court three times last year for different things: drugs, shoplifting and an at fault car accident. I do not know the full details. I've been trying to give tough love, however, I got a threat again today and it stirs up fear of just having to deal with something like this that can ruin the family. How long must it go on? How can it be stopped?
I hoping the statute of limitations will run out so it can no longer be something to throw at us. Just being charged with something like this ruins lives.
I think a person should be able to be charged for their abuse until they die. No limits should be allowed.
Post your comments