California Removes the Statute of Limitations on Childhood Sexual Assault

Two new bills have taken effect on January 1, 2024, to reform time limits on actions against individuals committing sexual assault and further expand the definition of childhood sexual assault. There are significant factors to consider concerning the dates of the alleged incidents that determine whether this new bill will affect your rights to pursue damages. As always, when laws are unclear, let a dedicated California sexual abuse attorney at The Senators Firm explain the law, your rights, and the damages you may be owed for your injuries. 

Cases This Law Will Impact

Over the decades, AB 452, the bill stating the statute of limitations concerning alleged molestation claims and childhood sexual assault, has been broadened to extend the dates and understanding of the rights of a victim. In these changes, the civil code of procedure broadened as well. What will this mean moving forward?

Any alleged act of molestation or childhood sexual assault that occurs on or after January 1, 2024, will have no time limits on the actions a victim can take against the indicated perpetrator. However, with the removal of time limits to file an action, any plaintiff who is 40 years old or older when the claim is filed must meet the requirements of filing a certificate of merit (Civ. Code of Procedure Sec. 340.1) against any individual that has committed the alleged sexual assault executed by their attorney and reviewed by a licensed mental health provider who has not or is not treating the plaintiff.

Any incident of sexual assault or molestation against a child occurring before January 1, 2024, will still be bound by the previous statute of limitations. Individuals alleging abuse before this date must file a claim within 22 years of their eighteenth birthday, within five years of the injuries being discovered, or should have reasonably been found, whichever occurs later. This limit is typically around the age of 40 for the plaintiff. 

Expanding the Definition of Childhood Sexual Assault 

SB 558 expands the definition of childhood sexual assault to contain any act that represents an obscene manner involving a child, as defined in California Penal Code 311.1 or California Penal Code 311.2. Any acts depicting or including actual intercourse or acts considered lewd or meant to arouse sexual desire, including other acts performed alone or with a person 18 or younger and that are knowingly developed, distributed, possessed, or published, are defined as acts of childhood sexual assault. The statute of limitations for taking action for this type of assault has also been extended.

The statute of limitations for any of these acts occurring before January 1, 2024, has been extended in SB 558 to within 22 years of the plaintiff’s eighteenth birthday or within ten years of when the injuries were discovered or should have been reasonably discovered. SB 558 creates two separate statutes of limitations for alleged acts of childhood sexual assault committed on or before December 31, 2023. Further explanation will be required to determine which statute of limitation will apply to these actions. 

Why This Matters 

As our understanding of the trauma of sexual assault changes, so do the laws that apply to these offenses. Changes in the statute of limitations for these alleged crimes allow survivors of sexual abuse in California who grapple with the consequences of these actions and the shame associated with these acts to have the burden of unfair deadlines eliminated. The Senators Firm stands with victims of childhood sexual assault to require accountability for these actions.