| Read Time: 3 minutes

Being accused of a sex crime can wreak havoc on your life. In addition to social and emotional consequences, you also face harsh legal penalties. This is particularly true if someone accuses you of child molestation.

Due to the significant and sometimes permanent impact of a child molestation accusation, the law protects against false claims. One such protection is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in California differs depending on the crime.

Due to recent changes in the law, determining which statute of limitations applies to your case, if any, can be complicated. To determine the statute of limitations on child molestation in California, speak to an experienced attorney today.

Defining Laws Around Child Molestation in California

Child molestation in California is governed by California Penal Code section 288, which defines the crime as “any lewd or lascivious act . . . upon the body . .  of a child who is under the age of 14 . . . with the intent to arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child.”  A conviction under this statute is a felony punishable by three to eight years in state prison as long as force was not used, there was only one victim, and the defendant does not have a prior conviction for the same type of charge (among other qualifiers).

 Being charged with child molestation does not necessarily require that you touched a child’s sexual organ or even the child’s bare skin. The law requires only that an adult touched a child (under the age of 14) in a sexual nature or caused the child to touch themselves. The intent required is to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of the adult or the child.

How the Statute of Limitations Is Actually Enforced for Child Molestation

The statute of limitations for child molestation in California depends on a lot of factors.  First and foremost, if there are qualifiers that make the crime a “life” case, then there is no statute of limitations at all.  In other words, someone accused of child molestation forty or fifty years after the fact (or more) can still be charged. 

What makes child molestation a life case depends on several factors. For instance, if a judge or jury convicts a defendant on charges involving more than one victim, then it is a life case and there is no statute of limitations. 

Other qualifiers making child molestation a life case (and therefore having no statute of limitations) are when a defendant has a prior conviction for a certain specified sex crime and commits child molestation when a defendant personally inflicts bodily harm on the child during the molestation when the defendant kidnaps the child for the purpose of molestation when the defendant personally uses a firearm or deadly weapon in the commission of the molestation, and others.

If the case does not carry life in prison as a potential term, then the general law is that the statute of limitations is forty years.  This number was recently changed by the California Legislature from the previous limit of twenty-eight years. 

It is important to note that because these laws were changed recently, this statute of limitations applies primarily to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2015. It also applies to crimes for which the previous statute of limitations had not run out before January 1, 2015. It is important for you to speak with an experienced attorney to find out which statute of limitations applies to your case.

What to Do If You Are Falsely Accused of Child Molestation

An accusation of child molestation in California can have dire consequences. If you have been accused of child molestation, it is important to seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible. Because the statutes of limitations for this crime are significantly longer than those of other crimes, it is important to speak with an attorney who can help you gather evidence to support your defense.

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, prides itself on serving the needs of criminal defendants in San Diego County with compassion and considerable expertise. Our experienced attorneys have tried over 100 jury trials and dozens of bench trials. Additionally, attorney Kerry L. Armstrong is a criminal law specialist certified by the State Bar of California.  We offer free, confidential consultations. Call or contact us today so we can help you determine the best strategy for your case. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

Rate this Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars