Statute of Limitations Reform

February 23, 2017

SB 261 includes meaningful and significant steps, supported by PDAA, to reform our child abuse-related statutes of limitations.

Most significant, SB 261 will eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for many sexual offenses committed against a child.  For many reasons, young victims of rape and other sexual assaults do not always report to law enforcement or to anyone, including loved ones, that they have been sexually assaulted.  Thankfully, some victims bravely decide later to report the sexual assault.  We know, both from grand jury reports and from our day-to-day practice, that children are, sadly and tragically, raped by family members, acquaintances, members of religious institutions, teachers, and, less frequently, by strangers.  Bringing justice in these cases often takes time, sometime decades.  Slamming the door shut against these victims, when we know that many understandably take substantial time to report the crimes committed against them, is unfair.  SB 261 rectifies this problem by eliminating the criminal statute of limitations.

SB 261 also eliminates in many instances the statute of limitations related to civil actions brought against those who commit certain sexual assaults against a child,  Justice is not only achieved in criminal court.  Our civil justice system allows a victim to receive appropriate monetary compensation from those who have wronged them.  Victims deserve to be properly compensated, and wrongdoers ought to suffer financial penalties for their unlawful conduct.

These reforms, if enacted, are pro-victim and pro-law enforcement.  They will help achieve justice and help hold sexual abusers and their conspirators accountable in both criminal and civil court.

The PDAA has a long record of supporting victims of sexual abuse and looks forward to the continuing discussions in the General Assembly about statute of limitations reform.  PDAA remains hopeful such reform will soon become law.