WE'RE ON A MISSION
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is working to eliminate all forms of sexual violence and to advocate for the rights and needs of victims of sexual assault.
Criminal Statute of Limitations in Child Abuse Cases -
Q: How long does the Commonwealth have to file charges in a case involving child abuse?
A: The statute of limitations was extended to give the Commonwealth until the child victim’s 50th birthday, to file charges.
Q: What bill extended the statute of limitations in 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 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 the extended 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 turn18 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.