Civil lawsuits often come with time limits. In general, victims have a certain amount of time to make a legal claim. If you’re wondering if Colorado child sexual abuse cases have time limits, our Colorado personal injury attorneys share what you need to know.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Colorado for Child Sexual Abuse Cases?
Colorado does not have a statute of limitations for criminal or civil child sexual abuse cases. A victim may pursue their case at any time. While Colorado used to have a time limit in civil cases, Colorado lawmakers repealed it on April 15, 2021.
Did Colorado Repeal the Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Cases?
Yes, Colorado repealed the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases1. Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 732, and Governor Jared Polis signed the new law on April 15, 2021. It applies to anyone for whom the previously six-year statute of limitations had not run, as well as to any future victims.
What Was the Old Statute of Limitations in Colorado for Child Sexual Abuse Cases?
The previous statute of limitations in Colorado for child sexual abuse cases was age 24. The victim had six years from their 18th birthday to pursue a claim or to age 24. Three previous efforts to repeal the time limit failed in the last 15 years before lawmakers finally passed a repeal that is effective January 1, 2022.
Why Did Colorado Repeal Its Child Sexual Abuse Case Statute of Limitations?
There are several reasons that Colorado lawmakers decided to repeal the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases:
- Minors may not realize that they are the victim of sexual abuse until they are much older.
- Children are often manipulated. A child may not understand that what is happening to them is sexual abuse. Also, they may be threatened or manipulated into keeping silent.
- A child may hesitate to speak up about abuse because of fear of family reactions or complicated personal relationships.
- Victims of sexual abuse can be very damaged. A victim may not have the strength to pursue a legal claim until some time in the future after therapy and with the help of an understanding legal team.
- Influential organizations often try to silence and discredit victims. The Catholic church3 and USA Gymnastics4 are two examples.
- Offenders should be accountable for their behavior no matter how long it takes.
- Even without a statute of limitations, it is still the duty of the plaintiff to prove their claim. The defense still has a right to their day in court and an opportunity for fair legal proceedings.
Why Is There a Statute of Limitations on Rape in the United States?
Some states have a statute of limitations on rape in the United States because of the availability of evidence and to encourage the parties to promptly litigate their claims. Those in favor of the time limits believe it’s the most fair for defendants to respond to claims when memories are fresh and evidence is available.
However, in the wake of criticism over the inequity of such limitations for victims, some states are making efforts to repeal these statutes of limitations to allow victims access to justice.
What Is the Colorado Statute of Limitations for Criminal Sexual Offenses Against a Child?
There is no statute of limitations in Colorado for sexual offenses against a child. Colorado law § 16-5-401(1)(a)5 creates time limitations to file a criminal complaint in the appropriate court for most offenses. However, felony sexual offenses against children, as defined in CRS § 18-3-411(1)6, are specifically excluded. Criminal charges may be pursued against child sex offenders at any time.
Should I Bring a Criminal or Civil Child Sexual Abuse Claim?
There are several ways that criminal and civil child sexual abuse claims are different:
- In Colorado, a district attorney decides whether to authorize criminal charges. They may choose not to pursue charges. However, a civil claim is brought by the victim. They can pursue the claim no matter who disagrees with them, even if the state declines to authorize criminal charges.
- The purpose of a civil claim is financial compensation. Accountability and a finding of legal responsibility are also important goals. However, one of the primary aims is to ensure that the victim is fairly compensated for the way that the abuse has changed the trajectory of their life. Financial compensation is limited in criminal claims.
- A criminal claim can be brought only against the offenders themselves. A civil action may hold enablers responsible, like in the cases of the Catholic church and USA Gymnastics having legal liability for allowing abuse to occur within their organizations.
- The burden of proof is lower in a civil child sexual abuse claim. The jury needs to find in favor of the victim by a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt. A civil suit may be viable regardless of what happens in the criminal claim.
- In the criminal claim, the district attorney calls the shots. They may allow a plea bargain or even dismiss a case over the victim’s objections. However, in a civil case, the victim is in control of how to resolve the claim. They don’t have to accept a settlement unless they are fully satisfied. In addition to deciding whether to accept a settlement, the victim is also in control of the discovery process, which can reveal valuable information.
In most cases, there is significant value to a victim in bringing a civil claim for child sexual abuse, whether a criminal claim is brought or results in a conviction. An experienced lawyer for child sexual abuse civil claims can help you examine the pros and cons and determine the best course of action.
Colorado Lawyers for Child Sexual Abuse Civil Claims
Has your child been victimized by child sexual abuse? You don’t have to fight alone. We are experienced and compassionate personal injury attorneys. Let us help your child and your family assert their rights and respond in the best possible way. Contact us today for a confidential consultation about your case.
RELATED: Personal Injury Involving Minors
1Hindi, Saja. (15 April 2021). Colorado will lift time limits in 2022 for victims to sue child sex abusers. The Denver Post. Retrieved 14 October 2021 from https://www.denverpost.com/2021/04/15/child-sex-abuse-statute-of-limitations-colorado-law/
3Bouvier, Simon and Bradpiece, Sam. (5 October 2021). More than 200,000 children sexually abused by French Catholic clergy, damning report finds. CNN. Retrieved 14 October 2021 from Retrieved 14 October 2021 from https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/05/europe/france-catholic-church-abuse-report-intl/index.html
4Quinn, Melissa. (15 September 2021). U.S. gymnasts testify about abuse by Larry Nassar: “We have been failed”. CBS News. Retrieved 14 October 2021 from Retrieved 14 October 2021 from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/larry-nassar-usa-gymnastics-simone-biles-aly-raisman/