California Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault

Survivors of sexual abuse often face lifelong challenges because of the trauma. You may experience panic attacks, flashbacks, anxiety, relationship and intimacy problems, and other post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Further, as reported by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), at least 80% of rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows. For juveniles, RAINN indicates this number is even higher at 93% of those reported to law enforcement. 

Because of this, the idea of coming forward to anyone and reporting sexual assault can be difficult for survivors. 

But experienced sexual assault attorneys at Boucher LLP can help you reclaim your life. We will listen to your story and help you navigate the California statute of limitations for sexual assault. We have helped hundreds of survivors find their voices. We help them stand up against predators and institutions that enable them to commit atrocities.

Understanding the California Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault Claims

The statute of limitations is a deadline by which you must bring a claim against someone who committed a wrongful act. The prosecutor must file criminal charges against the perpetrator before the statute of limitations ends. For civil cases, you (or your attorney) must file a civil claim against the perpetrator before the deadline to recover compensation.

Many survivors have a long, difficult road from the time of the abuse to when they feel ready to speak out about what happened. We can work with you to help protect your legal rights and craft a legal plan that aligns with your healing journey. 

Raymond Boucher and his team have secured justice for nearly 400 survivors of clergy sexual abuse involving the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and San Diego. He’s dedicated his entire career to helping survivors of abuse hold perpetrators accountable for their despicable actions. His team of sexual abuse attorneys understands that coming forward is a big step, and you likely feel a host of emotions because of it. We will listen to your story with compassion while maintaining your privacy.

Statute of limitations for sexual harassment in California

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Sexual Assault Claim in California?

The legislators recently extended the California statute of limitations for sexual assault. This change gives survivors additional time to recover and reach a place where they are comfortable coming forward, and it is safe to speak out. 

Statute of Limitations to Bring Criminal Charges

For criminal prosecutions, the applicable statute of limitations largely depends on the type of sexual assault and the survivor’s age at the time the assault was committed. For example, there is no time limit on when criminal charges can be brought for rape and many other types of sexual assault. 

Criminal charges are separate from civil lawsuits. California law specifically states that a survivor can bring a civil claim even if criminal charges aren’t filed or if they are unsuccessful. 

Time Limit to File a Civil Lawsuit for Sexual Assault

For civil lawsuits, the law has different deadlines depending on the age of the person victimized, and whether the institution or individual sought to cover up the abuse.

Sexual Assault

If the assault occurred on or after the survivor was 18 or older, then they must file the lawsuit:

  • Within ten years after the “last act, attempted act, or assault with the intent to commit an act of sexual assault,” or
  • Within three years after the survivor discovers or reasonably could have discovered that they suffered an injury because of the perpetrator’s actions. 

Whichever of these is later is the deadline that may apply to your case. 

Childhood Sexual Assault

Survivors of childhood sexual assault typically have until they turn 40 to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator or the institution responsible. Alternatively, adult claimants must file the lawsuit within five years after discovering that they suffer from a psychological injury because of the assault. California law provides that the deadline that occurs later is the one that applies. 

Survivors have additional time to file the lawsuit if the institution or an individual knew that the perpetrator posed a risk but didn’t take affirmative steps to protect the public. For example, in many cases, the Catholic church knew or had reason to know that a priest or bishop had a high risk of abusing children. Yet, the church did nothing or simply shuffled the priest around to different locations, giving him opportunities to harm more children. The legislators enacted this portion of the law to allow survivors in these and other situations to pursue justice even after they turn 40. 

A Criminal Case Hasn’t Been Filed Against the Perpetrator. Can I Still File a Lawsuit?

It’s not uncommon for criminal charges not to be brought against a perpetrator of sexual abuse. Because of the high burden of proof for criminal cases, prosecutors who bring criminal charges may be unsuccessful. Or there may be insufficient physical or other corroborating evidence (which is often the case) to sustain the charges. 

But as our collective understanding of trauma and sexual assault evolves, so as the law. You can bring a civil lawsuit against the person who victimized you, even if criminal charges were never brought or were unsuccessful. 

Our trauma-informed team understands the nuances of this area of the law. We’ll carefully review your case and advise you on your legal options. 

Boucher LLP—We Help Protect Survivors’ Rights and Pursue Justice

Our compassionate team fights for the rights of sexual assault survivors. Raymond has decades of experience helping survivors recover compensation and reclaim their agency. In 2006, he received an award for his hard work and dedication to securing justice for clergy sexual abuse survivors. The firm is committed to lifting the voices of survivors and holding at-fault parties responsible.

If you or your loved one were sexually assaulted, contact our team today by calling or using our online contact form