What does Senate File 562 mean for me? Frequently Asked Questions about recently passed legislation
Frequently Asked Questions About Recent Legislation eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for minors (Senate File 562)
Background: During the 2021 Legislative Session, Senate File 562 (or SF562) was introduced to expand sexual exploitation of a counselor/therapist/school employee to include adults who get paid to provide instruction or training to a minor outside of school. Late in the session, Senator Jake Chapman included an amendment to the bill that eliminates the criminal statute of limitations. This gives individuals who survived childhood sexual abuse more time to come forward, and charges could be brought anytime. The bill was signed into law on May 12, 2021.
What does SF562 actually say? You can find the full text of the law by clicking here. The law expands sexual exploitation of a counselor/therapist/school employee to include adults receiving compensation for providing training or instruction to a minor outside of a school. Adult for this crime is defined as someone who is at least 18 years old and is four or more years older than the minor receiving training/instruction. Sexual exploitation occurs when the adult has a “pattern, practice or scheme” of sexual conduct with the minor, which is defined as kissing; touching clothes or unclothed genitals, breasts, groin, button, anus, pubes, inner thigh; and/or sex acts. SF562 also eliminates the current criminal statute of limitations for sex abuse in first, second, and third degree; incest; sexual exploitation by a counselor/therapist/school employee/adult providing training or instruction to a minor; human trafficking; lascivious acts with a child; lascivious conduct with a minor; sexual misconduct with a juvenile; child endangerment; and sexual exploitation of a minor. This bill does not impact the civil statute of limitations.
What is a statute of limitations? The statute of limitations refers to the time period in which a case may be brought against someone. If someone tries to bring a case outside of that time period, a prosecutor would be unable to pursue it because it is outside the statute of limitations.
There are two types of statute of limitations: civil and criminal. Criminal cases are brought by county attorneys after an investigation by law enforcement—usually homicide, assault, possession of a controlled substance, and so forth. In a criminal case, if someone is found guilty they likely would have to serve time in jail and/or prison, or be on some kind of probation. Criminal cases require someone to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a civil case—defamation, custody disputes, property damage, and so forth—charges are brought by someone who was harmed by another’s actions. If successful, civil cases can result in some kind of financial compensation for the person who brought the case, or an order from a judge to change behavior. Civil cases require a lower standard than criminal cases for someone to be held accountable, called a “preponderance of evidence.” In other words—if it is “more probable than not” that Alex abused Sam, then Sam has won their case.
Will SF562 change the civil statute of limitations at all? No. The civil statute of limitations with these types of cases is still only 2 years and did not change under SF562.
If I experience sexual abuse or assault as an adult, will SF562 have any impact on me? No. SF562 only applies to certain sexual abuse crime committed against minors under the age of 18. If you have experienced sexual abuse as an adult and would like information on the statute of limitations as it applies to what happened to you, please contact the IowaCASA legal department by emailing email@example.com or calling us at 515-244-7424.
I was abused decades ago as a child. Does SF562 mean I can bring criminal charges against the person who harmed me? It is unlikely a criminal case will be successfully brought under this new law for abuse that occurred prior to it going into effect. Despite the bill’s intent—which was for the bill to take apply to instances of sex abuse that occurred before SF562 went into effect—the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that a change of a criminal statute of limitations cannot be retroactively applied to crimes which were committed prior to the law’s change. Because this law is new, there is no court decisions interpreting it. However, based on the decision by the US Supreme Court referenced above, it is likely that SF562 will only apply to abuse that occurs after May 12, 2021, which was the date the law went into effect.
When does SF562 go into effect? The elimination of the criminal statute of limitations goes into effect the day the bill was signed on May 12, 2021. The expansion of sexual exploitation of a counselor/therapist/school employee to include adults receiving payment to provide training or instruction to a minor outside of school goes into effect on July 1, 2021.
Does SF562 mean that more criminal cases for sexual abuse against minors will be brought against people who cause harm? Probably not. County attorneys decide when and if charges are filed after law enforcement does an investigation. It is unlikely, though not impossible, for county attorneys to bring charges for abuse that occurred more than 15 years ago. The reason for this is because evidence that would still exist may be compromised; no evidence may exist at all; witnesses may have moved away or have died since the abuse took place; from a legal perspective, county attorneys see memory more than 15 years ago as unreliable.
Still have questions? Please contact us at 515-244-7424.
If you are a survivor or have questions about a specific case and would like to discuss options, please contact the IowaCASA Legal Department by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.