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New Bill Aims to Amend Statute of Limitations in Sexual Abuse

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This summer a new law aimed at amending the statute of limitations rules in sexual offense cases was introduced. If passed, House Bill 1947 would drastically change the current law regarding legal time limits in which an individual can file a claim of sexual abuse. The bill was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives and is currently before a Rules Committee in the Senate.

House Bill 1947

According to the new bill, individuals who were under the age of 18 years old when they were sexually abused have until the age of 50 years old to bring a civil claim against any of the following individuals:

  • The person who committed the act of sexual abuse;
  • Any person who conspired with the individual who committed the act of sexual abuse; or
  • Any person who had actual knowledge of the sexual abuse and failed to prevent subsequent abuse by reporting the abuse to law enforcement.

Under the terms of the new bill, criminal prosecution for committing, conspiring to commit, or soliciting the following crimes can begin at any time:

  • Sex trafficking;
  • Involuntary sexual servitude;
  • Rape;
  • Statutory sexual assault;
  • Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Institutional sexual assault;
  • Aggravated indecent assault; and
  • Incest.

As the law currently stands, individuals who allege that they suffered sexual abuse as a child can file a civil suit against the responsible party only until they reach the age of 30 years old. Victims have until the age of 50 years old to bring a criminal complaint. If passed, the new bill would give individuals who claimed to be sexually abused as children until the age of 50 years old to bring a civil suit. The statute of limitations for bringing a criminal charge would be completely removed, meaning that a claim could be filed at any time.

Constitutional Concerns

The first draft of the bill contained a provision allowing victims whose statute of limitations had already passed to bring a civil suit retroactively against not only the perpetrators, but also the school and or teachers who did not report the abuse. The new version of the bill no longer provides for that. This is in large part due to concerns that such a provision violates residents’ constitutional rights.

Additional concerns have been raised about the ability of the State to prove charges of sexual assault after the passage of decades, in which evidence may have been seriously degraded. Witnesses may no longer be alive, records may have been destroyed and victims who suffered as children may not have an accurate memory of events. For these reasons, many critics fear that innocent people will be accused, charged, and convicted for crimes they did not commit.

Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If passed, the new law could have serious repercussions for those charged with sexually abusing a minor, so if you or a loved one have questions or concerns about how this law would affect you, please contact The Law Offices of Michael T. Van Der Veen by calling 215-546-1000 and we will help you set-up a free consultation with a dedicated criminal defense attorney.

Resource:

legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2015&sessInd=0&billBody=H&billTyp=B&billNbr=1947&pn=3667

pahouse.com/Rozzi/InTheNews/NewsRelease/?id=79189

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