California Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault

If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you have a right to sue for damages. In a sexual assault lawsuit, you can be financially compensated for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost income due to the assault. California has one of the longest statute of limitations periods for survivors of sexual assault to sue.

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    In recent years, more and more survivors of sexual assault have come forward to share their experience of abuse. As our society now starts to understand the prevalence of sexual assault cases, the law has also shifted to allow survivors of sexual assault to seek justice. 

    To better accommodate sexual assault survivors, many states, including California, have redefined their statute of limitations for sexual assault cases. 

    What is a statute of limitations?

    A statute of limitations sets a time limit on legal action after an assault takes place. In criminal cases, it sets the length of time within which prosecutors must initiate criminal charges. In civil cases, a statute of limitations defines the length of time the plaintiff has to file a lawsuit after the assault takes place.  

    Once the statute of limitations has expired in a criminal case, the crime can no longer be prosecuted. Similarly, if the statute of limitations has expired in a civil case, you no longer have the opportunity to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations depends on the type of crime or injury. 

    How is a sex crime defined in California?

    A sex crime is any form of illegal sexual conduct perpetrated against another person. There are different types of sex crimes in California. One of the most serious sex crimes is rape, which is a felony-level offense. In California, rape is defined as nonconsensual sexual intercourse. 

    A key component in the definition of rape is consent. When consent is not present in a sexual encounter, it is considered rape. This includes sexual contact in which: 

    • There is the use of “force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury”
    • The victim is unconscious
    • The victim is under the influence of alcohol or drugs
    • The victim is sleeping
    • The victim does not have the mental or physical capacity to give consent 

    In California, rape is a type of sexual assault. However, sexual assault has a broader definition.  

    Sexual assault in California is generally called sexual battery, and it is defined as the act of nonconsensually touching a victim’s intimate parts for the purposes of sexual arousal or gratification. Sexual assault requires intent. If someone accidentally brushes up against you in a crowded place, it is not sexual assault. However, if someone intentionally rubs against you for sexual gratification, that act is considered sexual assault or battery.

    What is the statute of limitations in California for a criminal sexual assault case?

    In California, the statute of limitations for prosecuting a perpetrator in a sexual assault case depends on the victim’s age. If the sexual assault occurred when the victim was under 18 years old, a prosecutor can file charges up until the victim’s 40th birthday. Prosecutors can file charges within ten years of the assault for adult victims. 

    What is the statute of limitations in California to file a civil claim for sexual assault?

    If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you have a right to sue for damages. In a sexual assault lawsuit, you can be financially compensated for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost income due to the assault. California has one of the longest statute of limitations periods for survivors of sexual assault to sue. 

    As of January 1, 2019, if the assault occurred on or after your 18th birthday, you must file a lawsuit: 

    • Within ten years of the last act of sexual assault 
    • Or within three years of finding out you have been injured because of a sexual assault 

    This applies only if the sexual assault took place on or after January 1, 2019. If the assault happened before January 1, 2019, the statute of limitations is only two years. 

    However, if the sexual assault occurred when you were under 18 years old, you can file a lawsuit until the later of: 

    • The date you turn 40 years old 
    • Within five years of discovering that “psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual assault” 

    The latter provision of this California civil law allows older adults to recover damages for injuries resulting from childhood sexual assault, even if the injuries are not discovered before their 40th birthday.

    Who can be sued for sexual assault in California?

    In California, you are entitled to sue the person who sexually assaulted you. Additionally, you might be able to sue another party, institution, or company. Anyone whose negligence contributed to an incident of sexual assault can be liable in a sexual assault lawsuit.  

    Types of organizations that may be sued in a sexual assault civil claim include: 

    • Educational institutions, like K-12 schools and universities 
    • Workplaces 
    • Hospitals and other medical centers 
    • Religious organizations 

    Depending on the facts of your sexual assault case, multiple parties may be held liable. 

    How did California Assembly Bill 218 impact the statute of limitations for sexual assault?

    In 2018, California expanded the rights of survivors of childhood sexual assault and extended the statute of limitations to file a claim by passing Assembly Bill 218. 

    After Assembly Bill 218 was enacted, the Catholic Church faced a series of new lawsuits in California concerning past incidents of sexual assault. 

    As victims began to file lawsuits against many Catholic bishops in California in response to the provisions guaranteed by Assembly Bill 218, the archbishops of Los Angeles and San Francisco filed motions challenging the bill and asking judges to rule Assembly Bill 218 unconstitutional. 

    Our Attorneys Are Here to Help You

    If you have experienced sexual assault, you might have time to file a lawsuit. If you want to pursue legal action, it is essential to enlist the guidance of a sexual abuse attorney who understands the nuances of sexual assault cases. 

    A sexual abuse case is sensitive, and you may feel complex emotions about suing those liable for your injuries. Cutter Law P.C. has a team of compassionate attorneys who are experienced in representing survivors of sexual assault and can help you decide whether to seek compensation for your pain and suffering.  

    We’re here to support you in navigating the legal process. Our consultations are free and completely confidential, as your privacy is very important to us. Contact our sexual assault attorneys to learn more about how we can assist you.  

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