CHILD ABUSE; CIVIL PROCEDURE; CONSTITUTIONAL LAW; CRIMINAL PROCEDURE; SEX CRIMES; STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS;
November 26, 2003
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IN CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked whether the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sexual assault apply retroactively. You also wanted to know the (1) criminal and civil statute of limitations applicable to a crime of sexual assault committed between 1990 and 1994 against a minor between ages 15 to 18 and (2) current statutes of limitations.
The statute of limitations for prosecuting child sexual assault is not retroactive, but the period for filing a personal injury action based on the crime, or enforcing or instituting an action to collect money damages awarded in such an action is retroactive. Therefore, the criminal statute of limitations applicable to child sexual assault crimes committed from 1990 to 1994 is not the present limitations period, but instead the period in effect at the time the crimes were committed.
On the other hand, the applicable civil statute of limitations is the current period of limitation rather than that in effect when the crimes were committed.
RETROACTIVITY OF STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS
The Connecticut Supreme Court has long held that statutes of limitations in criminal cases are to be construed liberally in favor of the accused and not accorded retroactive application in the absence of language clearly necessitating such a construction (State v. Jones, 132 Conn. 682 (1946); State v. Paradise, 189 Conn. 346 (1983); State v. Crowell, 228 Conn. 393 (1994)). Connecticut’s statute of limitations for child sexual assault does not expressly and clearly state that it applies retroactively. In fact, the legislature’s expressed intent as stated in PA 02-138 is that the current statute of limitations applies prospectively.
Even if the legislature had expressly stated that the statute be applied retroactively, it would likely still not be because the U. S. Supreme Court recently held that such laws violate the U. S. Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause. In Stogner v. California, a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled that a law extending a criminal statute of limitations after the existing limitations period expires (retroactive application) violates the Ex Post Facto Clause when it is applied to revive a previously time-barred prosecution (123 S. Ct. 2446 (2003)). The Ex Post Facto Clause prevents governments from enacting statutes with “manifestly unjust and oppressive” retroactive effects (Art. I, §10, cl. 1). OLR Report 2003-R-0512 provides a more detailed summary of Stogner.
Unlike criminal statutes of limitations, civil statutes are retroactive unless there is expressed intention to the contrary. The state Supreme Court has held that these procedural statutes are presumed to apply retroactively. “Therefore, unless specifically tied to a statutory right of action or unless a contrary legislative intent is expressed, the statute of limitations in effect at the time an action is filed governs the timeliness of the claim” (Andrulat v. Brook Hollow Associate, 176 Conn. 409 (1979); Moore v. McNamara, 201 Conn. 16 (1986); Roberts v. Caton, 224 Conn. 483 (1993)). The current civil statute of limitations does not create the right of action; it only specifies the limitation on filing the action. Thus, it applies retroactively. Further evidence of its retroactive application is the expressed intent of the legislature that it apply to past and future actions (see PA 02-138, codified at CGS § 52-577d).
SEXUAL ASSAULT STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS APPLICABLE TO CRIMES COMMITTED IN THE EARLY 1990’S
The criminal statute of limitations applicable to child sexual assault crimes committed between 1990 and 1994 is the period of limitations in effect at the time the crimes were committed. This limitations period varies, sometimes by year. Table 1 shows the applicable criminal periods of limitations by year.
On the other hand, the civil statute of limitation is the current period of limitations. It gives victims is 30 years after they reach age 18 to file a personal injury action based on the crime. There is no limitation on bringing a personal injury action to recover damages caused by sexual assault when the party legally at fault for the injury is convicted of first-degree sexual assault or first-degree aggravated sexual assault for such action. Likewise, there is no limitation on enforcing or instituting an action to collect money damages awarded in such an action.
TABLE 1: Child Sexual Assault Statutes of Limitation
Year of Crime
Criminal Statute of Limitations
Five years after the crime was committed.
1990—On and after 10/1/90
Two years after the victim reaches age 18 or seven years, whichever is less, but in no event less than five years after the crime was committed.
Two years after the victim reaches age 18 or seven years after the crime was committed, whichever is less, but no less than five years after the crime was committed.
Same as 1991
1993—On and After 7/1/93
Two years after the victim reaches age 18 or up to five years from the date he notifies the police or a prosecutor of the crime. But in either case, at least five years after the crime was committed.
Same as 1993
CURRENT CRIMINAL SEXUAL ASSAULT STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
In 2002, the Connecticut General Assembly extended the time period for prosecuting child sexual assault cases. The law, which took effect on October 1, 2002, applies to crimes committed on and after that date.
Generally, the statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or sexual assault of a minor is 30 years after the victim reaches age 18, or up to five years from the date he notifies the police or a prosecutor of the crime, whichever is earlier. In cases of second-degree sexual assault where the victim is between ages 13 and 16 and the offender is more than two years older, the five-year notification period applies only if the notice is given within five years after the crime was committed. First-degree sexual assault and first-degree aggravated sexual assault, both class A felonies, may be prosecuted at any time (PA 02-138, codified at CGS § 54-193a).
It is first-degree sexual assault to have sexual intercourse with a child (1) under age 16 by force or (2) under age 13 where the actor is at least two years older (CGS § 53a-70). It is first-degree aggravated sexual assault to commit first-degree sexual assault against a minor under age 16 while armed, with intent to disfigure the victim, with an extreme indifference to human life, or while aided by two or more people (CGS § 53a-70a).