PENNSYLVANIA

CHILD SEX ABUSE SOLs

CURRENT CIVIL SOL

In Pennsylvania, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 55 (age of majority, 18, plus 37 years). 

CIVIL SOL SNAPSHOT

AGE CAP

AGE 55

DISCOVERY TOLLING

NONE

REVIVAL LAW

NONE

Changes Since 2002:

Age Cap: Before 2002, the civil SOL in Pennsylvania was age 20 (age of majority, 18, plus 2 years). In 2002, Pennsylvania’s civil SOL was extended to age 30 (age of majority, 18, plus 12 years). In 2019, Pennsylvania extended the civil SOL to age 55 (age of majority, 18, plus 37 years) for victims sexually abused as minors and expanded liability for government institutions by providing exceptions to the laws of government immunity and limitations on damages.

Discovery:  Pennsylvania does not have a statutory or common law discovery rule applicable to child sexual abuse.

Revival Law:  In 2019, Pennsylvania passed a resolution proposing an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to open a 2-year revival window for victims of child sex abuse.  The resolution was set to be passed again by the legislature in 2021 and then presented to voters for approval by referendum for the window to become law.  Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated by the State Department’s failure to meet the advertising requirements for the referendum.  In 2021, Pennsylvania passed a similar resolution to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to open a 2-year revival window and lift sovereign immunity for actions against the government.

CURRENT PENNSYLVANIA CIVIL LAW

tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5533 - Infancy, insanity or imprisonment

(a) General rule.–Except as otherwise provided by statute, insanity or imprisonment does not extend the time limited by this subchapter for the commencement of a matter.

(b) Infancy.–

(1)(i) If an individual entitled to bring a civil action is an unemancipated minor at the time the cause of action accrues, the period of minority shall not be deemed a portion of the time period within which the action must be commenced. Such person shall have the same time for commencing an action after attaining majority as is allowed to others by the provisions of this subchapter.

(ii) As used in this paragraph, the term “minor” shall mean any individual who has not yet attained 18 years of age.

(2)(i) If an individual entitled to bring a civil action arising from childhood sexual abuse is under 18 years of age at the time the cause of action accrues, the individual shall have a period of 12 years after attaining 18 years of age in which to commence an action for damages regardless of whether the individual files a criminal complaint regarding the childhood sexual abuse.

(ii) For the purposes of this paragraph, the term “childhood sexual abuse” shall include, but not be limited to, the following sexual activities between a minor and an adult, provided that the individual bringing the civil action engaged in such activities as a result of forcible compulsion or by threat of forcible compulsion which would prevent resistance by a person of reasonable resolution:

(A) sexual intercourse, which includes penetration, however slight, of any body part or object into the sex organ of another;

(B) deviate sexual intercourse, which includes sexual intercourse per os or per anus; and

(C) indecent contact, which includes any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of the person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire in either person.

(iii) For purposes of this paragraph, “forcible compulsion” shall have the meaning given to it in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3101 (relating to definitions).

Case law

CURRENT CRIMINAL SOL

In Pennsylvania, there is no criminal SOL for most felonies related to child sex abuse. Those remaining have an SOL of age 55. There is a 1 year SOL where a perpetrator is identified with DNA evidence. 

CRIMINAL SOL SNAPSHOT

OTHER FELNOIES

TRAFFICKING

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

SEXUAL SERVITUDE

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

RAPE

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

STATUTORY SEXUAL ASSAULT

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

INVOLUNTARY DEVIATE SEXUAL INTERCOURSE

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

SEXUAL ASSAULT

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

INSTITUTIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

AGGRAVATED INDECENT ASSAULT

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

INCEST

NO SOL tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5551(7)

OTHER FELONIES

AGE 55 tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5552(c)(3)

MISDEMEANORS

AGE 55 tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5552(c)(3)

DNA SNAPSHOT

 

FELONIES

1 YEAR FROM IDENTIFICATION tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5552 (c.1)

MISDEMEANORS

1 YEAR FROM IDENTIFICATION tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5552 (c.1)

Changes Since 2002:

The criminal SOL was extended in 2002 from age 23 to 30 (age of majority, 18, plus 12 years).  A 1-year SOL extension was added in 2004 if DNA identified the perpetrator.  Following the 2005 Philadelphia District Attorneys Grand Jury Report on sex abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the criminal SOL was extended to age 50.  In 2014, trafficking and sexual servitude were added to the list of offenses for which the SOL is age 50.  In 2019, Pennsylvania eliminated the criminal SOLs for certain felonies (trafficking, sexual servitude, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, and incest), and it extended the criminal SOL for other felony and misdemeanor sexual offenses to age 55.

CURRENT PENNSYLVANIA CRIMINAL LAW

tit. 42 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5552 - Other offenses

<For applicability of the amendment of this section by Act 2019, Nov. 26, P.L. 641, No. 87, see § 10(1) of that Act.>

(a) General rule.–Except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, a prosecution for an offense must be commenced within two years after it is committed.

(b) Major offenses.–A prosecution for any of the following offenses must be commenced within five years after it is committed:

(1) Under the following provisions of Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses):

Section 901 (relating to criminal attempt) involving attempt to commit murder where no murder occurs.

Section 902 (relating to criminal solicitation) involving solicitation to commit murder where no murder occurs.

Section 903 (relating to criminal conspiracy) involving conspiracy to commit murder where no murder occurs.

Section 911 (relating to corrupt organizations).

Section 2702 (relating to aggravated assault).

Section 2706 (relating to terroristic threats).

Section 2713 (relating to neglect of care-dependent person).

Section 2901 (relating to kidnapping).

Section 3301 (relating to arson and related offenses).

Section 3502 (relating to burglary).

Section 3701 (relating to robbery).

Section 3921 (relating to theft by unlawful taking or disposition) through section 3933 (relating to unlawful use of computer).

Section 4101 (relating to forgery).

Section 4107 (relating to deceptive or fraudulent business practices).

Section 4108 (relating to commercial bribery and breach of duty to act disinterestedly).

Section 4109 (relating to rigging publicly exhibited contest).

Section 4117 (relating to insurance fraud).

Section 4701 (relating to bribery in official and political matters) through section 4703 (relating to retaliation for past official action).

Section 4902 (relating to perjury) through section 4912 (relating to impersonating a public servant).

Section 4952 (relating to intimidation of witnesses or victims).

Section 4953 (relating to retaliation against witness, victim or party).

Section 5101 (relating to obstructing administration of law or other governmental function).

Section 5111 (relating to dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities).

Section 5512 (relating to lotteries, etc.) through section 5514 (relating to pool selling and bookmaking).

Section 5902(b) (relating to prostitution and related offenses).

Section 6111(g)(2) and (4) (relating to sale or transfer of firearms).

(2) Any offense punishable under section 13(f) of the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L. 233, No. 64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act

(3) Any conspiracy to commit any of the offenses set forth in paragraphs (1) and (2) and any solicitation to commit any of the offenses in paragraphs (1) and (2) if the solicitation results in the completed offense.

(4) Under the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L. 31, No. 21), known as the Public Welfare Code

(5) Under the act of November 24, 1998 (P.L. 874, No. 110), known as the Motor Vehicle Chop Shop and Illegally Obtained and Altered Property Act

(b.1) Major sexual offenses.– Except as provided in section 5551(7) (relating to no limitation applicable), a prosecution for any of the following offenses under Title 18 must be commenced within 12 years after it is committed:

Section 3121 (relating to rape).

Section 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault).

Section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse).

Section 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault).

Section 3124.2 (relating to institutional sexual assault).

Section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault).

Section 4302 (relating to incest).

Section 6312 (relating to sexual abuse of children).

(c) Exceptions.–If the period prescribed in subsection (a), (b) or (b.1) has expired, a prosecution may nevertheless be commenced for:

(1) Any offense a material element of which is either fraud or a breach of fiduciary obligation within one year after discovery of the offense by an aggrieved party or by a person who has a legal duty to represent an aggrieved party and who is himself not a party to the offense, but in no case shall this paragraph extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than three years.

(2) Any offense committed by a public officer or employee in the course of or in connection with his office or employment at any time when the defendant is in public office or employment or within five years thereafter, but in no case shall this paragraph extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than eight years.

(3) Any sexual offense committed against a minor who is less than 18 years of age any time up to the later of the period of limitation provided by law after the minor has reached 18 years of age or the date the minor reaches 55 years of age.

As used in this paragraph, the term “sexual offense” means a crime under the following provisions of Title 18 or a conspiracy or solicitation to commit an offense under any of the following provisions of Title 18 if the offense results from the conspiracy or solicitation:

Section 3126 (relating to indecent assault).

Section 3127 (relating to indecent exposure).

Section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of children).

Section 6301 (relating to corruption of minors).

Section 6312(b) (relating to sexual abuse of children).

Section 6320 (relating to sexual exploitation of children).

(3.1) Any sexual offense committed against an individual who is 23 years of age or younger any time up to the later of the period of limitation provided by law after the individual has reached 24 years of age or 20 years after the date of the offense.

 

As used in this paragraph, the term “sexual offense” means a crime under the following provisions of Title 18 or a conspiracy or solicitation to commit an offense under any of the following provisions of Title 18 if the offense results from the conspiracy or solicitation:

Section 3011(a) (relating to trafficking in individuals) as it relates to sexual servitude.

Section 3012 (relating to involuntary servitude) as it relates to sexual servitude.

Section 3121(a) and (b).

Section 3123(a).

Section 3124.1.

Section 3124.2(a) and (b).

Section 3125(a).

Section 3126.

Section 3127.

Section 4302(a).

(4) An offense in violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(c) or (g), within one year of its discovery by State or local law enforcement, but in no case shall this paragraph extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than eight years.

(5) An offense under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3011 or 3012 in which the victim of human trafficking was not a minor any time up to ten years from the date of the last offense under this paragraph committed against the victim.

(6) An offense under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3012 involving labor servitude while the victim was a minor any time up to ten years after the victim reaches 18 years of age.

(c.1) Genetic identification evidence.–Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, if evidence of a misdemeanor sexual offense set forth in subsection (c)(3) or (3.1) or a felony offense is obtained containing human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which is subsequently used to identify an otherwise unidentified individual as the perpetrator of the offense, the prosecution of the offense may be commenced within the period of limitations provided for the offense or one year after the identity of the individual is determined, whichever is later.

(d) Commission of offense.–An offense is committed either when every element occurs, or, if a legislative purpose to prohibit a continuing course of conduct plainly appears, at the time when the course of conduct or the complicity of the defendant therein is terminated. Time starts to run on the day after the offense is committed.

(e) Commencement of prosecution.–Except as otherwise provided by general rule adopted pursuant to section 5503 (relating to commencement of matters), a prosecution is commenced either when an indictment is found or an information under section 8931(b) (relating to indictment and information) is issued, or when a warrant, summons or citation is issued, if such warrant, summons or citation is executed without unreasonable delay.

Case Law

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

Last Updated: April 21, 2021

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