A person who sexually abuses a child under 18, can be punished in different ways in the courts. In a criminal case, the People of the State of New York charge the abuser with crimes to punish and possibly imprison them. In a civil case, the victim sues the abuser for money to make up for any harm caused by the sexual abuse.
There are laws that say how long after an event, a court case can be started based on those events. These laws are called Statutes of Limitations. Under the Child Victims Act, child sex abuse victims now have more time to seek justice against their abusers. CPLR 214-G, CPL 30.10(3)f.
Time Period for Starting Cases-There are different time periods for starting cases against the child sex abuser or the institution that covered up or was involved in the abuse. The time period depends on the type of case.
Criminal Cases– A criminal felony case can be started up until a child sex abuse victim turns 28. You can’t bring criminal charges yourself. You go to the police or the District Attorney and they bring criminal charges. You are not a party in the case and you do not need to hire a lawyer.
Note: When the child sex abuse victim is under 11, there is usually no time limit for criminal charges. CPL 30.10(2)a.
Civil cases– People who were sexually abused as children (under 18) can start a civil case against their abuser or a liable third party, like a church or school, until they are 55 years old. A civil case can be started even if the abuse happened decades ago. But a civil case for damages is not brought by the prosecutor. Instead, you or your lawyer sues the sexual abuser or a third party. You do not need to file a Notice of Claim before the case is started. Start the case in the Supreme Court.
Important! For one year, between August 14, 2019 – August 13, 2020, a child sex abuse victim can start a civil case:
- No matter how old you are
- No matter how long ago the abuse took place
- Even if the claim was too late under the old statute of limitations
- Even if you sued the abuser before and the case was dismissed because you waited too long
- Even if a Notice of Claim was never filed
- Whether you are suing the abuser or organizations or persons that should have done something to stop or prevent the abuse from happening (like a school, an employer, or a place of worship)
These cases are called “revived CPLR 214-g” cases. Special Rules apply. When the case is ready for trial, the case can be tried before other cases that have been waiting. This is called a “preference.” Read about trial preferences in CPLR 3403.
Criminal Child Sex Abuse Crimes-Most sexual offenses as defined in Penal Law 130 that are committed against a child under 18 are covered by the Child Victims Act. Also covered:
- Incest in the first, second or third degree. PL 255.27, PL 255.26, PL 255.25
- Use of a child in a sexual performance. This means sexual acts in a play, motion picture, photo or dance. PL 263.05
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