Child Sex Victims to Get Their Day in Court

Posted On: January 22nd, 2019

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Albany Personal Injury Attorneys on New NY State Sexual Assault Laws

*Update-On February 14th, Govenor Cuomo signed the bill to amend the state’s sexual assault laws and extend the statute of limitations for child victims.

Past and future victims of child sexual abuse in New York state will soon have new windows of opportunity to seek criminal and civil redress for the harm done to them. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it will be “easy” this year to amend the state’s sexual assault laws and extend the statute of limitations for child victims, with new Democratic majorities in both houses of the state Legislature signaling their support of the new Child Victims Act. In recent years, the state Assembly repeatedly has passed similar bills, but they have stalled in the Senate.

The proposed new law will do three major things:

  1. It will extend or eliminate the statute of limitations for future criminal sexual cases involving a child under the age of 18, giving victims more time to come forward after they become adults. For a variety of reasons, survivors of sexual assault often don’t report it for years.
  2. It will extend the window for victims to bring a civil action until they turn age 50.
  3. It will open a one-year window for all past victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil claim, no matter how long ago it was.

 

Statue of Limitations for Child Sex Victims in NY State

 

The one-year look back was a stumbling block in the past, due to opposition from religious and civic organizations, as well as Senate Republicans.

The most serious felony sexual crimes against children already have no criminal statute of limitations. But mid-and lower-level felonies currently have a five-year statute of limitations that kicks in when the victim turns 18.

Currently, the New York statute of limitations to file a civil sexual-abuse lawsuit depends on whether there was a criminal conviction. The statute of limitations for crime victims to file civil lawsuits against persons convicted of sex-related crimes is seven years from the date of the crime, pursuant to NYCPLR 213-b. For certain “specific crimes” (defined by Executive Law 632-a as including first-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child), the statute of limitations to file a civil lawsuit is 10 years from the date of the conviction (CPLR 213-b).

In cases where there was no criminal prosecution, a civil lawsuit may be brought within five years if the conduct would otherwise constitute criminal first-degree rape, aggravated sexual abuse or a criminal sexual act under NYS Penal Law. If there was a criminal prosecution but no conviction, the five-year period does not start until the criminal case’s termination .

Otherwise, the state of limitations for a civil lawsuit is generally one year if the sexual abuse is considered an intentional tort, or three years if the claim is based on negligence, such as inadequate supervision or screening of employees at a church, school, or daycare center. Civil lawsuits against governmental entities, such as state- or municipal-run schools, foster-care facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes, are also subject to shorter times to file a notice of claim. The statute of limitations for civil cases involving child victims is tolled until they reach age 19.

 

The Catholic Clergy & History of Child Sex Abuse

 

Pursuant to the NY Social Services Law 413, only certain professionals are currently required to report sexual abuse by a parent or caregiver; this includes physicians, mental-health professionals, hospital personnel, school officials, social workers, child and foster-care workers, and law-enforcement officials. The new law would also add clergy to the list.

Interest in changing the statutes of limitations for lawsuits involving sexual abuse has increased significantly in recent years due to major sex scandals involving Catholic clergy and the Boy Scouts, and the #MeToo movement. For the Catholic Church, the tipping point came in January 2002, when the Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative team published a stunning expose of widespread sexual abuse by Boston-area clergy that had been covered up by church officials, who typically shuttled pedophile priests from parish to parish, freeing them to continue to molest children.

Last August, an investigation led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro culminated in a bombshell grand jury report saying more than 300 Catholic clergy in that state had sexually abused more than 1,000 children going back decades. The report stressed that the number of victims and abusers is probably much higher, as some victims never come forward. That report, and the federal and state investigations that followed, led to an unprecedented wave of dioceses around the country (including several in New York state) releasing lists of priests who had been credibly accused of child abuse—although critics have said the lists are incomplete, and little more than a desperate attempt at damage control.

 

Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko is headquartered in Albany, New York, and represents clients in sexual abuse cases in state and federal courts throughout New York state. Call us at (518) 463-7784 or contact us for a no-obligation consultation.

Consult With An Attorney

When faced with a painful and potentially life-altering legal situation, you want the best people on your team. Someone you can trust. An advocate that listens and becomes your voice. A dedicated, seasoned professional who genuinely cares and can provide guidance in a time of uncertainty.

Contact Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko for a no-obligation consultation, or call (518) 463-7784. We have law offices in Albany, Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs and Plattsburgh, NY and we are available to take your call 24 hours a day.

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Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko Law

Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko Law