A last-minute maneuver by Maryland’s House of Representatives to save a bill that would have extended the statute of limitations for filing civil claims related to sexual abuse was defeated this month.
In its first form, the measure would have allowed victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit at anytime. In addition, the bill also provided a “two-year lookback” window that would have allowed Maryland sex abuse victims until October 2021 to file a civil lawsuit over abuse alleged to have happened at any time in the past, even if they had previously had been barred from doing so.
The proposed legislation won easy passage through Maryland’s House of Delegates, with the measure being approved by the House on a 135-3 vote, according to information available from the General Assembly’s website, but failed in the Maryland Senate. The bill was defeated when the Maryland legislature’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee deadlocked 5-5 on the measure.
House leaders, however, tried to revive the bill after the Senate vote by changing the statute of limitations to 58; but, also keeping the two-year “lookback” window and adding those elements to another bill as amendments. The House adopted the amendments, the Baltimore Sun reported, and moved the revised measure forward to a final vote on the last day of the General Assembly session. But, while that bill passed, the amendments once again failed in the Senate.
The attempt to change the statute of limitations comes on the heels of a recent modification in the deadline for bringing Maryland civil sex abuse cases to court. In 2017, Maryland lawmakers extended to age 38 the statute of limitations for filing civil claims alleging sexual abuse. Several state politicians said they voted to change the statute of limitations for sexual abuse because they recognized that victims of child sex abuse often need time to process what happened to them before taking action against their abusers. Before the change to the current age of 38, the statute of limitations was age 25.
The Senate committee vote “infuriated” Del. C.T. Wilson, the bill’s sponsor, according to the Baltimore Sun. “They did their best to protect pedophiles,” Wilson said in an interview after the vote. However, one of the state lawmakers who voted against the bill told the Baltimore Sun that he didn’t think that a defendant “could adequately defend [themselves] against cases 50 or 60 years old.”
Wilson, who has been at the forefront in making changes to Maryland’s civil sex abuse laws, has said he proposed the changes because he was a victim of child sexual abuse at the hands of his Maryland foster father.
The proposal isn’t dead; it’s expected to be introduced once again in the 2020 session of the legislature.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore opposed the measure and submitted written testimony arguing against passage of the bill, particularly the provision with the two-year window, the Baltimore Sun reported. The church wrote that the retroactive window would have a “devastating impact” and could expose institutions to “unsubstantiated claims of abuse.”
If you are charged with a sex crime in Maryland, you should talk to a Maryland criminal defense attorney. A Baltimore sex crimes lawyer can provide defense options such as getting the charges dismissed, getting Maryland sexual assault charges reduced or working out a Baltimore sexual offense plea bargain. The lawyers for The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling these type of cases. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.