Proposed legislation before the Missouri House could change the state’s longstanding statutes of limitations with regard to civil and criminal claims against those suspected of committing child sexual abuse.
Currently, the law in Missouri, found in Missouri Revised Statutes 537.046, says that victims of child sexual abuse have a 10-year limit to file civil claims, those actions seeking damages for the harm they suffered. Missouri Revised Statutes 556.037 says that there is a 30-year statute of limitations for prosecution to take place against those who engaged in child sexual abuse. The clock begins running when the child who was abused turns 18.
These laws are set to change should House Bill No. 247 pass. The new legislation would completely abolish the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal claims. This would mean victims could file civil suits for damages decades into the future and prosecutors could unearth cases as far back as victims can still be found to testify.
Missouri Representative Brand Ellington says that he proposed the changes because he believes victims often wait until after the statute of limitations has run out before coming forward with information about their own abuse, when it’s too late to hold the wrongdoer accountable for their actions. A representative of Missouri Kids First testified before a Missouri House committee considering the legislation that child sex crimes are by far the least likely to reported, with an estimate of only 25% of all sexual abuse crimes against children ever making their way to authorities. Moreover, when these child sex crimes are reported, they are the most likely to be reported after the statute of limitations has run out, given the time it takes for many people to come to grips with what happened to them.
Some have worried that if the legislation passes there could be a huge influx of claims against suspected child abusers, but advocates for the measure insist that existing criminal and civil legal protections will ensure that innocent individuals in Missouri are not falsely accused of such heinous crimes.
If the changes were to take effect it would serve to bring the statute of limitations with regard to child sex abuse into line with those regarding sexual abuse among adults. Missouri remains one of the few states that do not have a statute of limitations for the crime of rape. Missouri Revised Statutes 556.036 clearly states that: “A prosecution for murder, forcible rape, attempted forcible rape, forcible sodomy, attempted forcible sodomy, or any class A felony may be commenced at any time.”
If you’ve had a run in with the law and find yourself in need of a Missouri criminal defense lawyer capable of aggressively protecting your interests, contact our St. Louis criminal defense law firm today at (314) 863-0500.
Source: “Proposal would lift statute of limitations on child sexual abuse,” by Mike Lear, published at MissouriNet.com.