Judiciary Committee sends child sex abuse statute of limitations bill to full House

HARRISBURG, April 5 – The House Judiciary Committee reported out legislation today that would strengthen laws dealing with Pennsylvania's statute of limitations regarding child sex abuse cases.

The bill, introduced by committee Chairmen Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, and Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, would abolish the criminal statute of limitations for future criminal prosecutions in certain serious child sexual abuse cases and permit child sexual abuse victims to file a civil case until they reach age 50. Current law limits filing to age 30. 

"With this legislation, Pennsylvania takes some substantial steps in dealing with child sexual abuse prosecutions," Petrarca said. "It was important to strike the right balance between protecting children and allowing child sex abuse victims to receive justice," Petrarca said. "Abolishing the criminal statute of limitations will send a message to abusers that they no longer can be free from prosecution simply because the statute of limitations expired on their crime before they could be brought to justice."

Under the bill, for criminal cases, there would no statute of limitations to apply for crimes relating to human trafficking, sexual servitude, rape, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, aggravated indecent sexual assault and incest.

"At the same time, it can take years for survivors of child sex abuse to remember their trauma and have the courage to face it. Expanding the ability for those survivors to civilly prosecute to age 50 affords them the time to seek justice," Petrarca said.

Before being reported out on a 26-1 vote, the bill was amended to waive sovereign immunity for state and local public institutions in cases of gross negligency, which would allow civil cases to be filed against them. It now goes to the full House for consideration.