Pennsylvania enacts law ending time limits for criminal charges in child sex abuse cases

Pennsylvania enacts law ending time limits for criminal charges in child sex abuse cases
© Getty Images

Pennsylvania enacted several laws Tuesday that will give victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to come forward with allegations. 

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed three bills into law Tuesday, about a year after a grand jury report was released about hundreds of cases of abuse by some members of the Catholic clergy. 

“After tireless and passionate work on the part of so many, especially countless brave victims, these bills will today become law, and victims of one of the most unimaginable forms of abuse will receive the support and rights they deserve,” Wolf said. He added that the state will “continue pushing forward” until all survivors have a chance to tell their story. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The new laws will abolish the state's criminal statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse and extend the civil statute of limitations. 

Pennsylvania also increased penalties for mandatory reporters who fail to report cases of child abuse, and one of the laws makes conversations with law enforcement exempt from nondisclosure agreements. 

At the signing, Wolf also expressed support for a state House bill that would amend the Pennsylvania constitution to create a two-year revival window in which victims can file civil charges in old cases.

Victims and advocates have been pushing for the two-year window after the grand jury report, but top state Senate Republicans argue it would be unconstitutional and offered the slower alternative of amending the state constitution, The Associated Press reported.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D), at the bill signing with Wolf, also pushed for lawmakers to take up the two-year window instead of waiting for the lengthier amendment process. 

“By waiting, we are robbing the very victims who made this day possible — we are robbing them of the only closure before them,” Shapiro said, according to AP. 

The bill must pass two consecutive legislative sessions before it goes on the ballot for voters to determine if the constitutional amendment will be put in place.