The Pennsylvania House of Representative recently passed House Bill 1947, which would extend the statute of limitations for criminal and civil child sex abuse cases. The legislation would eliminate the statute of limitations for future criminal prosecutions of child sex abuse and increase the length of time child sexual abuse victims have to file civil claims. The current law limits the time period in which the state may prosecute those accused of child sexual abuse crimes, but the new bill would remove the statute of limitations for future criminal prosecutions of child sexual abuse.

Currently, child sexual abuse victims have until their 30th birthdays to bring civil lawsuits if the child sex abuse occurred after August 27, 2002. The new bill would apply retroactively and give victims until their 50th birthdays to pursue civil litigation regardless of when the abuse occurred. The bill also adds exceptions to sovereign immunity, which would allow victims to recover against state and local governments who acted in a grossly negligent manner. Victims could be awarded up to $200,000 from state entities and up to $500,000 from local government entities if they are able to prove those entities were grossly negligent.

In the past, similar efforts to change existing criminal and civil statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases has failed. The passage of this bill marks a surprising turn of events for child sex abuse advocates, particularly victims of clergy sexual abuse, who have pushed for these reforms for years. The release of a grand jury report in March, which concluded that hundreds of children had been sexually abused by at least 50 priests assigned to the Altoona-Johnstown diocese from 1940 through 2009, is largely responsible for the recent shift in support for the reforms. The Attorney General Kathleen Kane has stated publicly that although the investigation is ongoing, none of the alleged abusers could be prosecuted because they have either passed away or the statute of limitations has run.

The bill was adopted by a vote of 180-15 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration. Though the bill passed with overwhelming approval in the House, it is expected to face significant opposition from Catholic-based organizations and the insurance industry in the Senate.

Skilled and Experienced Sex Crime Representation for Child Sex Abuse Cases

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At Fienman Defense, we understand that being charged with a criminal offense is a terrifying, confusing and dehumanizing experience. We have the resources and dedication necessary to mount an effective defense and we will do everything possible to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. We pride ourselves on providing skilled legal advocacy and exceptional service to all of our clients.

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