CALIFORNIA

CHILD SEX ABUSE SOLs

CURRENT CIVIL SOL

The current SOL in California for civil claims for child sex abuse against all defendants is age 40, with a discovery rule of 5 years, and an open revival window until December 31, 2022.

CIVIL SOL SNAPSHOT

AGE CAP

AGE 40

DISCOVERY TOLLING

5 YEARS

REVIVAL LAW

3-YEAR WINDOW (CLOSES 12/31/22)

REVIVAL UP TO AGE 40

 

Changes Since 2002:

Age Cap: In 2002, the SOL was age 26. In 2019, California successfully passed an SOL amendment that retroactively extends the civil SOL to age 40 (age of majority, 18, plus 22 years).

Discovery: California had a 1-year common law discovery rule for child sex abuse claims. In 1991, it adopted a statutory 3-year discovery rule running from when an individual discovers or should have discovered that their injury was caused by their abuse. The applicability of the discovery rule statute was interpreted narrowly by several California Supreme Court decisions and amended again and again by the legislature to clarify it. By 2002, the 3-year discovery rule was applicable to claims against all types of defendants without the prior age 26 cutoff for claims against third parties. Though, the discovery rule was ineffective for claims against government entities where a victim failed to satisfy the claim presentment requirement. Finally, in 2019, the legislature amended the discovery rule, extending it to 5 years and stipulating that it is retroactive and revives claims during the 3-year window and afterwards. Also, the discovery rule is applicable to claims against any type of defendant – perpetrators, individuals, private entities and the government.

Revival Law: In 2003, California enacted a 1-year window, which revived civil claims during the 2003 calendar year.  In 2019, California successfully passed an SOL amendment that retroactively extends the civil SOL to age 40 (age of majority, 18, plus 22 years), extends the discovery rule to 5 years, and opens a 3-year revival window starting January 1, 2020. This new window is an improvement over the 2003 window, because it is longer and, unlike its predecessor, it allows previously expired claims to be brought against the government as well as perpetrators and institutions. The SOL amendment also added a provision allowing victims to recover treble damages against any defendant who covered up the abuse. The window opened on January 1, 2020 and closes on December 31, 2022. Claims are revived for all survivors up until they reach age 40, even after the window closes. For a guide to help survivors understand their rights during the legal process of filing a civil lawsuit under California’s revival law, click the survivor tool kit below.

CURRENT CALIFORNIA CIVIL LAW

Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340.1 - Childhood sexual assault; certificates of merit executed by attorney; violations; failure to file; name designation of defendant; periods of limitation; legislative intent

(a) In an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault, the time for commencement of the action shall be within 22 years of the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority or within five years of the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by the sexual assault, whichever period expires later, for any of the following actions:

(1) An action against any person for committing an act of childhood sexual assault.

(2) An action for liability against any person or entity who owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, if a wrongful or negligent act by that person or entity was a legal cause of the childhood sexual assault that resulted in the injury to the plaintiff.

(3) An action for liability against any person or entity if an intentional act by that person or entity was a legal cause of the childhood sexual assault that resulted in the injury to the plaintiff.

(b)(1) In an action described in subdivision (a), a person who is sexually assaulted and proves it was as the result of a cover up may recover up to treble damages against a defendant who is found to have covered up the sexual assault of a minor, unless prohibited by another law.

(2) For purposes of this subdivision, a “cover up” is a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual assault.

(c) An action described in paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (a) shall not be commenced on or after the plaintiff’s 40th birthday unless the person or entity knew or had reason to know, or was otherwise on notice, of any misconduct that creates a risk of childhood sexual assault by an employee, volunteer, representative, or agent, or the person or entity failed to take reasonable steps or to implement reasonable safeguards to avoid acts of childhood sexual assault. For purposes of this subdivision, providing or requiring counseling is not sufficient, in and of itself, to constitute a reasonable step or reasonable safeguard. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to constitute a substantive change in negligence law.

(d) “Childhood sexual assault” as used in this section includes any act committed against the plaintiff that occurred when the plaintiff was under the age of 18 years and that would have been proscribed by Section 266j of the Penal Code; Section 285 of the Penal Code; paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (b), or of subdivision (c), of Section 286 of the Penal Code; subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 288 of the Penal Code; paragraph (1) or (2) of subdivision (b), or of subdivision (c), of Section 287 or of former Section 288a of the Penal Code; subdivision (h), (i), or (j) of Section 289 of the Penal Code; any sexual conduct as defined in paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 311.4 of the Penal Code; Section 647.6 of the Penal Code; or any prior laws of this state of similar effect at the time the act was committed. This subdivision does not limit the availability of causes of action permitted under subdivision (a), including causes of action against persons or entities other than the alleged perpetrator of the abuse.

(e) This section shall not be construed to alter the otherwise applicable burden of proof, as defined in Section 115 of the Evidence Code, that a plaintiff has in a civil action subject to this section.

(f) Every plaintiff 40 years of age or older at the time the action is filed shall file certificates of merit as specified in subdivision (g).

(g) Certificates of merit shall be executed by the attorney for the plaintiff and by a licensed mental health practitioner selected by the plaintiff declaring, respectively, as follows, setting forth the facts which support the declaration:

(1) That the attorney has reviewed the facts of the case, consulted with at least one mental health practitioner who the attorney reasonably believes is knowledgeable of the relevant facts and issues involved in the particular action, and concluded on the basis of that review and consultation that there is reasonable and meritorious cause for the filing of the action.

(2) That the mental health practitioner consulted is licensed to practice and practices in this state and is not a party to the action, that the practitioner is not treating and has not treated the plaintiff, and that the practitioner has interviewed the plaintiff and is knowledgeable of the relevant facts and issues involved in the particular action, and has concluded, on the basis of the practitioner’s knowledge of the facts and issues, that in the practitioner’s professional opinion there is a reasonable basis to believe that the plaintiff had been subject to childhood sexual abuse.

(3) That the attorney was unable to obtain the consultation required by paragraph (1) because a statute of limitations would impair the action and that the certificates required by paragraphs (1) and (2) could not be obtained before the impairment of the action. If a certificate is executed pursuant to this paragraph, the certificates required by paragraphs (1) and (2) shall be filed within 60 days after filing the complaint.

(h) If certificates are required pursuant to subdivision (f), the attorney for the plaintiff shall execute a separate certificate of merit for each defendant named in the complaint.

(i) In any action subject to subdivision (f), a defendant shall not be served, and the duty to serve a defendant with process does not attach, until the court has reviewed the certificates of merit filed pursuant to subdivision (g) with respect to that defendant, and has found, in camera, based solely on those certificates of merit, that there is reasonable and meritorious cause for the filing of the action against that defendant. At that time, the duty to serve that defendant with process shall attach.

(j) A violation of this section may constitute unprofessional conduct and may be the grounds for discipline against the attorney.

(k) The failure to file certificates in accordance with this section shall be grounds for a demurrer pursuant to Section 430.10 or a motion to strike pursuant to Section 435.

(l) In any action subject to subdivision (f), a defendant shall be named by “Doe” designation in any pleadings or papers filed in the action until there has been a showing of corroborative fact as to the charging allegations against that defendant.

(m) At any time after the action is filed, the plaintiff may apply to the court for permission to amend the complaint to substitute the name of the defendant or defendants for the fictitious designation, as follows:

(1) The application shall be accompanied by a certificate of corroborative fact executed by the attorney for the plaintiff. The certificate shall declare that the attorney has discovered one or more facts corroborative of one or more of the charging allegations against a defendant or defendants, and shall set forth in clear and concise terms the nature and substance of the corroborative fact. If the corroborative fact is evidenced by the statement of a witness or the contents of a document, the certificate shall declare that the attorney has personal knowledge of the statement of the witness or of the contents of the document, and the identity and location of the witness or document shall be included in the certificate. For purposes of this section, a fact is corroborative of an allegation if it confirms or supports the allegation. The opinion of any mental health practitioner concerning the plaintiff shall not constitute a corroborative fact for purposes of this section.

(2) If the application to name a defendant is made before that defendant’s appearance in the action, neither the application nor the certificate of corroborative fact by the attorney shall be served on the defendant or defendants, nor on any other party or their counsel of record.

(3) If the application to name a defendant is made after that defendant’s appearance in the action, the application shall be served on all parties and proof of service provided to the court, but the certificate of corroborative fact by the attorney shall not be served on any party or their counsel of record.

(n) The court shall review the application and the certificate of corroborative fact in camera and, based solely on the certificate and any reasonable inferences to be drawn from the certificate, shall, if one or more facts corroborative of one or more of the charging allegations against a defendant has been shown, order that the complaint may be amended to substitute the name of the defendant or defendants.

(o) The court shall keep under seal and confidential from the public and all parties to the litigation, other than the plaintiff, any and all certificates of corroborative fact filed pursuant to subdivision (m).

(p) Upon the favorable conclusion of the litigation with respect to any defendant for whom a certificate of merit was filed or for whom a certificate of merit should have been filed pursuant to this section, the court may, upon the motion of a party or upon the court’s own motion, verify compliance with this section by requiring the attorney for the plaintiff who was required by subdivision (g) to execute the certificate to reveal the name, address, and telephone number of the person or persons consulted with pursuant to subdivision (g) that were relied upon by the attorney in preparation of the certificate of merit. The name, address, and telephone number shall be disclosed to the trial judge in camera and in the absence of the moving party. If the court finds there has been a failure to comply with this section, the court may order a party, a party’s attorney, or both, to pay any reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred by the defendant for whom a certificate of merit should have been filed.

(q) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any claim for damages described in paragraphs (1) through (3), inclusive, of subdivision (a) that has not been litigated to finality and that would otherwise be barred as of January 1, 2020, because the applicable statute of limitations, claim presentation deadline, or any other time limit had expired, is revived, and these claims may be commenced within three years of January 1, 2020. A plaintiff shall have the later of the three-year time period under this subdivision or the time period under subdivision (a) as amended by the act that added this subdivision.

(r) The changes made to the time period under subdivision (a) as amended by the act that amended this subdivision in 2019 apply to and revive any action commenced on or after the date of enactment of that act, and to any action filed before the date of enactment, and still pending on that date, including any action or causes of action that would have been barred by the laws in effect before the date of enactment.

Case law

CURRENT CRIMINAL SOL

There is currently no SOL in California for many felony sex offenses, age 40 for other felonies, and 1-3 years for misdemeanors.

CRIMINAL SOL SNAPSHOT

OTHER FELNOIES

RAPE

 NO SOL Cal. Penal Code § 799(b)(1)

SODOMY

NO SOL Cal. Penal Code § 799(b)(1)

ORAL COPULATION

NO SOL Cal. Penal Code § 799(b)(1)

LEWD OR LASCIVIOUS ACTS

NO SOL Cal. Penal Code § 799(b)(1)

CONTINUOUS SEXUAL ABUSE OF A CHILD

NO SOL Cal. Penal Code § 799(b)(1)

SEXUAL PENETRATION

 NO SOL Cal. Penal Code § 799(b)(1)

OTHER FELONIES

 AGE 40 Cal. Penal Code § 801.1(a)(1)

MISDEMEANOR ANNOYING OR MOLESTING A CHILD UNDER AGE 14

 3 YEARS AFTER OFFENSE Cal. Penal Code § 802(b)

OTHER MISDEMEANORS

 1-YEAR Cal. Penal Code § 802(a)

 

DNA SNAPSHOT

 

CRIMES INVOLVING SUBSTANTIAL SEXUAL CONTACT

1 YEAR Cal. Penal Code § 803(f)(2)(B)

 

Changes Since 2002:

Before 2002, California enacted a law that would revive expired criminal SOLs by allowing prosecution one year after reporting to law enforcement for abuse that happened while a victim was a minor, but it was held unconstitutional in Stogner v. California. As of 2002, the SOL for felony sex offenses was 3 or 6 years from the offense depending on the crime or age 19, whichever was later. Misdemeanor annoying or molesting a child under 18 has an SOL of 3 years after the date of the offense where the victim is under 14 years of age. All other misdemeanors have an SOL of one year after the date of the offense. California also has had a DNA statute that permits prosecution within 1-year of DNA identification for sex crimes if the DNA is analyzed in a timely manner since 2005. In 2004, the criminal SOL for felonies was extended to 10 years after the offense and in 2006 pornography was added to this SOL. In 2014, California extended the criminal SOL from age 28 to age 40 and expanded the crimes included for this SOL in 2018. In 2017, California eliminated the SOL for many felony sex offenses, including rape at any age, molestation, and sexual abuse.

CURRENT CALIFORNIA CRIMINAL LAW

Cal. Penal Code § 799 - Offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment; embezzlement of public money; other felonies; application to minors

(a) Prosecution for an offense punishable by death or by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for life without the possibility of parole, or for the embezzlement of public money, may be commenced at any time.

(b)(1) Prosecution for a felony offense described in paragraph (1), (2), (3), (4), (6) or (7) of subdivision (a) of Section 261, paragraph (1), (2), (3), (4), or (5) of subdivision (a) of Section 262, Section 264.1, paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (c) of, or subdivision (d), (f), (g), (i), or (k) of, Section 286, paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (c) of, or subdivision (d), (f), (g), (i), or (k) of, Section 287 or former Section 288a, subdivision (a) of Section 288 involving substantial sexual conduct as defined by in subdivision (b) of Section 1203.066, subdivision (b) of Section 288, Section 288.5, or subdivision (a), (b), (d), (e), or (g) of Section 289 may be commenced at any time.

(2) This subdivision applies to crimes that were committed on or after January 1, 2017, and to crimes for which the statute of limitations that was in effect prior to January 1, 2017, has not run as of January 1, 2017.

(c) This section shall apply in any case in which the defendant was a minor at the time of the commission of the offense and the prosecuting attorney could have petitioned the court for a fitness hearing pursuant to Section 707 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

Cal. Penal Code § 800 - Offenses punishable by imprisonment for eight years or more

Except as provided in Section 799, prosecution for an offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for eight years or more or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for eight years or more shall be commenced within six years after commission of the offense.

Cal. Penal Code § 801.1 - Commencement of prosecution for specified sex offenses

(a)(1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, prosecution for a felony offense described in Section 261, 286, 287, 288, 288.5, or 289, or former Section 288a, or Section 289.5, as enacted by Chapter 293 of the Statutes of 1991 relating to penetration by an unknown object, that is alleged to have been committed when the victim was under 18 years of age, may be commenced any time prior to the victim’s 40th birthday.

(2) Paragraph (1) shall only apply to crimes that were committed on or after January 1, 2015, or for which the statute of limitations that was in effect prior to January 1, 2015, has not run as of January 1, 2015.

(b) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, if either subdivision (a) of this section or subdivision (b) of Section 799 does not apply, prosecution for a felony offense described in subdivision (c) of Section 290 shall be commenced within 10 years after commission of the offense.

Cal. Penal Code § 801.2 - Limitations period for prosecution of crime under § 311.4 relating to employment of minor to perform prohibited acts

Notwithstanding any other limitation of time prescribed in this chapter, prosecution for a violation of subdivision (b) of Section 311.4 shall commence within 10 years of the date of production of the pornographic material.

Cal. Penal Code § 803-Discovery Tolling Statute - Tolling or extension of time periods

(a) Except as provided in this section, a limitation of time prescribed in this chapter is not tolled or extended for any reason.

(b) No time during which prosecution of the same person for the same conduct is pending in a court of this state is a part of a limitation of time prescribed in this chapter.

(c) A limitation of time prescribed in this chapter does not commence to run until the discovery of an offense described in this subdivision. This subdivision applies to an offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, a material element of which is fraud or breach of a fiduciary obligation, the commission of the crimes of theft or embezzlement upon an elder or dependent adult, or the basis of which is misconduct in office by a public officer, employee, or appointee, including, but not limited to, the following offenses: . . .

(f)(1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, if subdivision (b) of Section 799 does not apply, a criminal complaint may be filed within one year of the date of a report to a California law enforcement agency by a person of any age alleging that he or she, while under 18 years of age, was the victim of a crime described in Section 261, 286, 287, 288, 288.5, or 289, former Section 288a, or Section 289.5, as enacted by Chapter 293 of the Statutes of 1991 relating to penetration by an unknown object.

(2) This subdivision applies only if all of the following occur:

(A) The limitation period specified in Section 800, 801, or 801.1, whichever is later, has expired.

(B) The crime involved substantial sexual conduct, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 1203.066, excluding masturbation that is not mutual.

(C) There is independent evidence that corroborates the victim’s allegation. If the victim was 21 years of age or older at the time of the report, the independent evidence shall clearly and convincingly corroborate the victim’s allegation.

(3) No evidence may be used to corroborate the victim’s allegation that otherwise would be inadmissible during trial. Independent evidence does not include the opinions of mental health professionals.

(4)(A) In a criminal investigation involving any of the crimes listed in paragraph (1) committed against a child, when the applicable limitations period has not expired, that period shall be tolled from the time a party initiates litigation challenging a grand jury subpoena until the end of the litigation, including any associated writ or appellate proceeding, or until the final disclosure of evidence to the investigating or prosecuting agency, if that disclosure is ordered pursuant to the subpoena after the litigation.

(B) Nothing in this subdivision affects the definition or applicability of any evidentiary privilege.

(C) This subdivision shall not apply if a court finds that the grand jury subpoena was issued or caused to be issued in bad faith. 

(g)(1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, a criminal complaint may be filed within one year of the date on which the identity of the suspect is conclusively established by DNA testing, if both of the following conditions are met:

(A) The crime is one that is described in subdivision (c) of Section 290.

(B) The offense was committed prior to January 1, 2001, and biological evidence collected in connection with the offense is analyzed for DNA type no later than January 1, 2004, or the offense was committed on or after January 1, 2001, and biological evidence collected in connection with the offense is analyzed for DNA type no later than two years from the date of the offense.

(2) For purposes of this section, “DNA” means deoxyribonucleic acid

Case Law

The information provided is solely for informational purposes and is not legal advice. To determine the California SOL in a particular case, contact a lawyer in the state.

Last Updated: April 21, 2021

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