January 10, 2023 By Bryan Powell

How Long After Being Molested Can You Press Charges in California?

child molestation defense attorney

A statute of limitations determines the timeline for criminal charges to be brought against the perpetrator of a crime. Although the statute of limitations will often vary from crime to crime, charges for child molestation will typically have a considerably longer statute of limitations window compared to other criminal offenses. That makes it possible for charges to be filed on behalf of a victim long after being molested. The time limit that a statute of limitations outlines is usually applied in criminal cases because the evidence, including the recollection of witnesses and the parties involved, can deteriorate over time.

Most states have a statute of limitations that explicitly states how long after being molested you can press charges. However, most laws governing felony sex crimes in California no longer have a statute of limitations. Therefore, a child molestation survivor in California can press charges, in most cases, against the alleged perpetrator at any time they wish. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

Read on to learn more about what child molestation statutes of limitations exist in California and how long after being molested you can press charges.  

Why is a Statute of Limitations Important?

Statutes of limitations place strict deadlines on a prosecutor’s ability to bring criminal charges or a victim’s ability to bring a civil case against the alleged offender. Statutes of limitations help the justice system to be more efficient because they encourage the timely filing of charges, help to protect evidence in a case, and keep the process fair for all parties involved.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Criminal Child Molestation Cases in California?

According to California law, no statute of limitations exists to limit how long after being molested you can press charges against the perpetrator. In fact, many child molestation charges in California are filed against the perpetrator years later.

While certain felony crimes in California, like rape, covered under California PC 261(a)(5), still have a  statute of limitations, most sex crimes involving children do not.

How Does California Law Define Child Molestation? (PC 288)

Child molestation crimes are typically charged under California Penal Code Section 288 (a), which covers lewd acts involving a minor. Under PC 288, it is unlawful to touch a child younger than 14 years of age on their body in a sexual manner.

The alleged contact does not have to involve touching a sexual organ or the child’s bare skin in order for the perpetrator to be found guilty. Touching a child in any sexual way, including through the child’s clothing, can result in a criminal conviction.

If you had sexual contact with a minor under 14, you could be charged with child molestation under California Penal Code Section 288(a).

You could be charged with this crime if:

  • You touched a child’s body on the bare skin or through their clothing, or you caused the child to touch their own body or the body of someone else
  • Your act of touching was intentional, and
  • You did so intending to arouse, appeal to, or gratify your own sexual desires or those of the child

Child molestation crimes, like lewd acts with a minor, are felony offenses. If you are convicted under PC 288(a), you face three to eight years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines. In addition, you will receive one strike on your criminal record under California’s Three Strikes law.

You will also be required to register as a sex offender under PC 290 if you are convicted of child molestation.

The Statute of Limitations for Child Molestation Under PC 288

In the past, all California felony sex crimes had a 10-year statute of limitations, meaning you could not be charged with an offense if ten years had passed since the alleged victim’s 18th birthday. However, those laws were recently changed.

According to current California law, the statute of limitations that applies to child molestation charges under PC 288 says the following:

  • Child molestation charges can be filed within one year of when the crime was reported to law enforcement if substantial sexual conduct was involved and there is independent evidence to support the alleged victim’s claims;
  • Prosecution for a felony PC 288 offense can begin at any time if the crime was committed on or after January 1, 2017, and for crimes for which the statute of limitations that was in effect before January 1, 2017, and has not expired as of that date;
  • A crime committed on or after January 1, 2015, or where the statute of limitations was in effect before that date or has not expired since that date, and alleged to have been committed when the victim was under 18 years of age can be prosecuted at any time before the victim’s 40th birthday.

If the offense is punishable by imprisonment in California state prison, the prosecution must begin within three years after the commission of the offense. If the offense is punishable by up to eight years or more in prison, the prosecution must begin within six years after the commission of the offense.

Understanding How Long After Being Molested a Victim Can Press Charges

As you can see, California laws regarding child molestation and the related statute of limitations are pretty complicated. That is why it is so imperative that when you or someone you love is charged with child molestation, you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

At Wallin & Klarich, our sex crime defense attorneys have over 35 years of experience successfully defending our clients against serious sex crime charges, including child molestation charges, statutory rape charges, and more. So let us help you too.

Wallin & Klarich has offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles, and San Diego. So you can rest assured that you will find an experienced child molestation attorney near you, no matter where you might be.

Call Wallin & Klarich today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (714) 386-7124 for a free phone consultation.

We will be there when you call.

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