WASHINGTON DC

CHILD SEX ABUSE SOLs

CURRENT CIVIL SOL

In the District of Columbia, the civil SOL for child sex abuse claims is capped at age 40 (age of majority, 18, plus 22 years). There is also a discovery rule that allows victims to file a claim 5 years after discovering their abuse. A 2-year revival window is now open and previously expired claims by survivors up to age 40, and older victims who recently discovered their abuse, may be filed against any type of defendant until May 2, 2021. 

CIVIL SOL SNAPSHOT

AGE CAP

AGE 40

DISCOVERY TOLLING

5 YEARS

REVIVAL LAW

2-YEAR WINDOW (CLOSES 5/2/21)

Changes Since 2002:

Age Cap:  The civil SOL in 2002 in Washington D.C. was age 24 (age of majority, 21, plus 3 years). The SOL was extended in 2009 to age 25 (age of majority, 18, plus 7 years). In 2019, D.C. extended the civil SOL to age 40.

Discovery: Washington, D.C. recognized a narrow, common law discovery rule for child sexual abuse in 1994. The discovery rule applies if “as a result of the defendant’s wrongful conduct, either plaintiff’s recollection of the relevant facts has been repressed, and if she has thus been effectively precluded during the period of repression from seeking legal redress.” However, the discovery rule is triggered as soon as the plaintiff has “knowledge of a cause of action.” In 2009, Washington, D.C. adopted a 3-year statutory discovery rule, meant to codify the common-law discovery rule, that tolls the SOL until “the victim knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act constituting sexual abuse, whichever is later.” In 2019, it lengthened the discovery rule to 5 years after the victim discovers the act constituting their abuse. It is unsettled whether the statutory discovery rule applies to defendants other than a perpetrator, but the statutory language and the caselaw make no mention of such a limitation. 

Revival Law:  In 2019, Washington D.C. opened a 2-year revival window for previously expired child sex abuse claims against perpetrators, other individuals and entities.  The window opened on May 3, 2019 and closes on May 2, 2021, and applies to all child sex abuse survivors up to age 40 and, in some circumstances, older victims and those sexually assaulted as adults. For a guide to help survivors understand their rights during the legal process of filing a civil lawsuit under Washington D.C.’s revival window, click the survivor tool kit below.

CURRENT WASHINGTON DC CIVIL LAW

D.C. Code § 12-301 - Limitation of time for bringing actions.

Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, actions for the following purposes may not be brought after the expiration of the period specified below from the time the right to maintain the action accrues:

(1) for the recovery of lands, tenements, or hereditaments — 15 years;

(2) for the recovery of personal property or damages for its unlawful detention — 3 years;

(3) for the recovery of damages for an injury to real or personal property — 3 years;

(4) for libel, slander, assault, battery, mayhem, wounding, malicious prosecution, false arrest or false imprisonment — 1 year;

(5) for a statutory penalty or forfeiture — 1 year;

(6) on an executor’s or administrator’s bond — 5 years; on any other bond or single bill, covenant, or other instrument under seal — 12 years;

(7) on a simple contract, express or implied — 3 years;

(8) for which a limitation is not otherwise specially prescribed — 3 years;

(9) for a violation of § 7-1201.01(11) – 1 year;

(10) for the recovery of damages for an injury to real property from toxic substances including products containing asbestos — 5 years from the date the injury is discovered or with reasonable diligence should have been discovered;

(11) for the recovery of damages arising out of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was less than 35 years of age–the date the victim attains the age of 40 years, or 5 years from when the victim knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act constituting sexual abuse, whichever is later;

(12) for the recovery of damages arising out of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was 35 years of age or older–5 years, or 5 years from when the victim knew, or reasonably should have known, of any act constituting sexual abuse, whichever is later.

This section does not apply to actions for breach or contracts for sale governed by § 28:2-725, nor to actions brought by the District of Columbia government.

D.C. Code § 12-302 - Disability of plaintiff

(a) Except as provided by subsection (b) of this section, when a person entitled to maintain an action is, at the time the right of action accrues:

(1) under 18 years of age; or

(2) non compos mentis; or

(3) imprisoned —

he or his proper representative may bring action within the time limited after the disability is removed.

(b) When a person entitled to maintain an action for the recovery of lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or upon an instrument under seal, is under any of the disabilities specified by subsection (a) of this section at the time the right of action accrues, he or his proper representative, except where otherwise specified herein, may bring the action within 5 years after the disability is removed, and not thereafter.

Case law

Cases

CURRENT CRIMINAL SOL

In the District of Columbia, there is no criminal SOL for most child sex abuse felonies. The SOL for trafficking, prostitution, and pornography related crimes is capped at age 31 (age of majority, 21, plus 10 years).

CRIMINAL SOL SNAPSHOT

OTHER FELNOIES

1ST AND 2ND DEGREE CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

NO SOL D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(1)(K)-(L)

1ST AND 2ND DEGREE SEXUAL ABUSE OF A MINOR

NO SOL D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(1)(M)-(N)

1ST AND 2ND DEGREE SEXUAL ABUSE OF A SECONDARY EDUCATION STUDENT

NO SOL D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(1)(O)-(P)

1ST AND 2ND DEGREE SEXUAL ABUSE OF A PATIENT OR CLIENT

NO SOL D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(1)(Q)(R)

INCEST

NO SOL D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(1)(U)

TRAFFICKING

AGE 31 D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(3)(J)

USING A MINOR IN SEXUAL PERFORMANCE

AGE 31 D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(3)(H)

PROSTITUTION

AGE 31 D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(3)(K)-(M)

OTHER FELONIES

AGE 27 D.C. Code § 23-113(a)(5)

OTHER MISDEMEANORS

AGE 24 D.C. Code § 23-113(5)(a)(6)

DNA SNAPSHOT

 

NO DNA STATUTE

   

Changes Since 2002:

In 2002, D.C. had a criminal SOL of 6 years from an offense for felonies and 3 years for other offenses.  In 2004, D.C. pushed the SOL to age 36 (age of majority, 21, plus 15 years) for child sex abuse felonies in the first and second degree, and age 31 (age of majority, 21, plus 10 years) for third and fourth degree sexual abuse, incest and pornography.  In 2010, D.C. added an SOL of age 31 (age of majority, 21, plus 10 years) for sex trafficking of children.  In 2019, D.C. eliminated the criminal SOL for most sex abuse felonies.  Though, it left trafficking, pornography and prostitution at the age 31 SOL. The SOL for misdemeanor sexual abuse is 3 years from the date it is committed.

CURRENT WASHINGTON DC CRIMINAL LAW

D.C. Code § 23-113 - Limitations on actions for criminal violations.

(a) Time Limitations. — (1) A prosecution for the following crimes may be commenced at any time:

(A) murder in the first or second degree (D.C. Official Code § 22-2101 and 22-2102);

(B) murder in the second degree (D.C. Official Code § 22-2103);

(C) murder of a law enforcement officer or public safety employee (D.C. Official Code § 22-2106);

(D) first degree murder that constitutes an act of terrorism (D.C. Official Code § 22-2106);

(E) second degree murder that constitutes an act of terrorism (D.C. Official Code § 22-3153(c));

(F) murder of a law enforcement officer or public safety employee that constitutes an act of terrorism (D.C. Official Code § 22-3153(b));

(G) first degree sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3002);

(H) second degree sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3003);

(I) third degree sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3004);

(J) fourth degree sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3005);

(K) first degree child sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3008);

(L) second degree child sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3009);

(M) first degree sexual abuse of a minor (D.C. Official Code § 22-3009.01);

(N) second degree sexual abuse of a minor (D.C. Official Code § 22-3009.02);

(O) first degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student (D.C. Official Code § 22-3009.03);

(P) second degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student (D.C. Official Code § 22-3009.04);

(Q) first degree sexual abuse of a ward, patient, client, or prisoner (D.C. Official Code § 22-3013);

(R) second degree sexual abuse of a ward, patient, client, or prisoner (D.C. Official Code § 22-3014);

(S) first degree sexual abuse of a patient or client (D.C. Official Code § 22-3015);

(T) second degree sexual abuse of a patient or client (D.C. Official Code § 22-3016); and

(U) incest (D.C. Official Code § 22-1901).

(2) Repealed.

(3) A prosecution for the following crimes and any offense that is properly joinable with any of the following crimes is barred if not commenced within ten (10) years after it is committed:

(A) Repealed.

(B) Repealed.

(C) enticing a child for the purpose of committing felony sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3010);

(D) Repealed.

(E) Repealed.

(F) Repealed.

(G) Repealed.

(H) using a minor in a sexual performance or promoting a sexual performance by a minor (D.C. Official Code § 22-3102);

(I) Repealed.

(J) Trafficking in labor or commercial sex and sex trafficking of children as prohibited by (D.C. Official Code §§ 22-1833 and 22-1834), respectively;

(K) abducting or enticing child from his or her home for purposes of prostitution, or harboring such child (§ 22-2704);

(L) pandering, or inducing or compelling an individual to engage in prostitution (§ 22-2705);

(M) compelling an individual to live life of prostitution against his or her will (§ 22-2706); and

(N) causing spouse or domestic partner to live in prostitution (§ 22-2708).

(4) Except as provided in paragraph (6), a prosecution for a felony other than those crimes enumerated in paragraph (1) or paragraph (3) is barred if not commenced within six (6) years after it is committed.

(5) Except as provided in paragraphs (6) and (7), a prosecution for any other criminal offense is barred if not commenced within three (3) years after it is committed.

(6) A prosecution for a felony or a misdemeanor may be brought within three (3) years:

(A) after a public officer or employee has left office, for any completed offense based on official conduct; or

(B) after a fraud or breach of fiduciary trust has been, or reasonably should have been, discovered for any completed offense based on that fraud or breach of fiduciary trust; even if barred by the provisions of paragraphs (4) and (5):

Provided, that, in no case shall this provision extend the period of limitations to more than nine (9) years in the case of a felony nor more than six (6) years in the case of a misdemeanor.

(7) A prosecution for a violation of subchapter II of Chapter 13 of Title 4 is barred if not commenced within 6 years after it is committed.

(b) Time when offense committed. — 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 defendant’s complicity therein, is terminated. Time starts to run on the day after the offense is committed or completed.

(c) Commencement of prosecution. — A prosecution is commenced when:

(1) an indictment is entered;

(2) an information is filed; or

(3) a complaint is filed before a judicial officer empowered to issue an arrest warrant; provided, that such warrant is issued without unreasonable delay. A prosecution for an offense necessarily included in the offense charged shall be considered to have been timely commenced, even though the period of limitation for such included offense has expired, if the period of limitation has not expired for the offense charged and if there was, after the close of the evidence at trial, sufficient evidence as a matter of law to sustain a conviction for the offense charged.

(d) Suspension of period of limitation. — (1) The period of limitation for an offense, and any necessarily included offense, does not run during any time when a prosecution against the defendant for that offense is pending in the courts of the District of Columbia.

(2) The period of limitation shall not begin to run until the victim reaches 21 years of age for the following offenses:

(A) Repealed.

(B) Repealed.

(C) enticing a child for the purpose of committing felony sexual abuse (D.C. Official Code § 22-3010);

(D) using a minor in a sexual performance or promoting a sexual performance by a minor (D.C. Official Code § 22-3102);

(E) Repealed.

(F) Repealed.

(G) Section [D.C. Official Code 22-2704];

(H) Section [D.C. Official Code 22-2705];

(I)Section [D.C. Official Code 22-2706], where the victim is a minor; and

(J) Forced labor, trafficking in labor or commercial sex, sex trafficking of children, and benefitting financially from human trafficking as prohibited by the Human Trafficking Act [D.C. Law 18-239], where the victim is a minor.

(3) Repealed.

(4) Repealed.

(5) The period of limitation shall not begin to run for forced labor, trafficking in labor or commercial sex, sex trafficking of children, and benefitting financially from human trafficking until the victim is no longer subject to the means used to obtain or maintain his or her labor or services or commercial sex acts.

(e) Extended period for commencement of new prosecution. — If a timely complaint, indictment, or information is dismissed for any error, defect, insufficiency, or irregularity, a new prosecution may be commenced within three (3) months after the dismissal becomes final even though the period of limitation has expired at the time of the dismissal or will expire within three (3) months thereafter.

(f) Fugitives from justice. — No statute of limitations shall extend to any person fleeing from justice.

Case Law

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

Last Updated: April 21, 2021

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