Child sex abuse is a horrific and devastating crime. For too long, victims of childhood sex abuse have struggled to get justice. It can take years for a survivor to come to terms with what happened to them. Under Washington’s old system, an overly strict statute of limitations could be a barrier to justice in some child sex abuse cases.
In April of 2019, state lawmakers made much needed legal reforms. As reported by KUOW Public Radio, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill extending or removing the statute of limitations for several sex abuse offenses. Here, our Spokane civil sexual assault lawyers explain the most important things victims and their families need to know about the legal reforms in Washington.
Child Sex Abuse: No Criminal Statute of Limitations
As of July 28th, 2019, Washington State no longer has a criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse offenses. If the victim was under the age of 16 at the time of the alleged assault/abuse, then no statute of limitations applies. Prosecutors can file a criminal charge indefinitely.
This is a significant change: Under the old statutory regime, criminal child sex abuse charges had to be filed before the victim’s 30th birthday. The restrictive deadline made it impossible for some survivors to seek justice.
Beyond eliminating the statute of limitations for criminal child sex abuse charges, Washington lawmakers also extended the statute of limitations for sexual assault offenses against adults. Adult survivors (16 years of age and older) have 20 years from the date of the crime to seek criminal charges.
Child Sex Abuse: The Deadline for Civil Lawsuits is More Complicated
In passing the reform package, Washington legislators did not eliminate the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims. Though, the civil statute of limitations is often far broader than people realize. Under Washington state law, a civil child sex abuse lawsuit must be filed within “three years of the time that the act caused the injury.”
The specific language is extremely important. The deadline does not necessarily require a civil lawsuit to be filed within three years of the date of the assault/abuse. Washington state courts have determined that the statute of limitations may not start to run until the survivor is able to fully understand the causal link between the abuse and their trauma. In some cases, that may be many years after the sexual abuse occurred. Do not assume that you are ineligible to file a civil child sex abuse lawsuit. Schedule a confidential consultation with a qualified attorney.
Speak to Our Spokane Civil Sexual Assault Lawyers Right Away
At Albrecht Law PLLC, our Spokane sexual assault attorneys are compassionate, experienced advocates for victims and their families. If you have questions about child sex abuse lawsuits and the Washington statute of limitations, we can help. To schedule a free, strictly confidential consultation, please contact our legal team today. We serve communities throughout the entire region, including in Garfield County, Spokane County, Adams County, and Franklin County.