Senator Beall Calls for Giving Victims More Time to Seek Prosecution or File a Lawsuit

January 29, 2014

SACRAMENTO – Legislation to stop child molesters from leveraging the statute of limitations to escape prosecution or civil damages was introduced today by Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose.

“California must not allow sex abusers to turn the law on its head so they can continue to molest children,’’ Beall said. “Changing both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations will give victims more time to report crimes and allow the justice system to get child molesters off the streets.

“Medical research now acknowledges the trauma inflicted on victims of childhood sex abuse can result in memory loss and severely affect their ability to report the crime to authorities.  But the law fails to recognize pedophiles are using that psychological harm to help them hide from justice. We can’t allow this injustice to continue.

“Under my proposal to extend the civil statute of limitations, an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse will have additional time to recognize and understand their psychological trauma so they can seek restitution against their assailant.’’

Senate Bill 926 would reform the criminal statute of limitations by raising the age at which an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse can seek prosecution from 28 to 40 years. The bill would affect sex crimes against children including lewd and lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and other offenses. The bill has co-authors from both parties.

A second bill, SB 924, proposes to reform the two standards that now govern the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits by:

•    Increasing the age deadline to file to 40 years old from 26. This existing deadline is currently used when the victim makes his or her causal connection to their trauma before they reach their 26th birthday.

•    Increasing the time from the date of discovery of their trauma to child sex abuse to five years from the current standard of three years. Additionally, it stipulates the five-year period starts when a physician, psychologist, or clinical psychologist first informs the victim of the link between their adult psychological injures and the abuse.

Last year, Beall introduced SB 131, legislation that would have applied retroactively to a small number of adult survivors of abuse, allowing them to sue the organizations that harbored their abusers. The bill was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor.

Unlike SB 131, the bills introduced today apply both to public and private entities and will be applied prospectively on Jan. 1, if passed and signed into law.

SB 926 is jointly authored by Senators Beall and Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach. Its co-authors are Senators Mary Block, D-San Diego, and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford; and Assemblymembers Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, and Isadore Hall III, D-Los Angeles.

SB 924 is jointly authored by Beall and Lara.