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A Statute of Limitations is a time restriction on the filing of criminal charges. A criminal case may not be filed after expiration of the relevant Statute of Limitations. Most criminal offenses have a Statute of Limitations, which vary depending on the offense.
- What is the Statute of Limitations for most crimes? Statutes of Limitations vary across jurisdictions and between specific offenses, with felony crimes generally having lengthier limitations than misdemeanors. For example, in Texas most misdemeanors have a 2 year Statute of Limitations, while many felonies have a 3 year statute. Similarly, the general time limits in Illinois are 3 years for felonies and 18 months for misdemeanors. Learn more.
- What crimes have no Statute of Limitations in the US? Capital felonies, Murder, and many sexual offenses often carry no Statute of Limitations across the US. Texas has no limitations for Murder and Manslaughter, and virtually all child sex crimes including trafficking and compelling prostitution. New York also provides no time limit for Class A felonies like Murder and Terrorism, or for first degree rape including offenses against children.
HOW LONG IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IN MOST STATES?
Statute of Limitations restrictions vary across jurisdictions and often contain exceptions. Generally, misdemeanors carry shorter time restrictions than felonies. However, many states have different levels of felonies with differing time limits for each specific charge. Some states have no limitations for serious offenses. For example, in Florida there is no Statute of Limitations for Murder, capital felonies and with other felonies resulting in death.
- How long after a crime can you report it? A criminal offense can be reported at any time within the Statute of Limitations. Crimes reported after expiration of the Statute of Limitations may be barred. Law enforcement generally want to address criminal incidents quickly for practical purposes.
- How long after an offense can you be charged? A person can be charged with an offense at any time within the Statute of Limitations for that offense. For example, California can legally charge an individual 5 years, 11 months, 20 days after commission of Arson, an offense with a 6 year Statute of Limitations.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A CRIME IS REPORTED?
Once a crime is reported, law enforcement will investigate the offense by interviewing witnesses and collecting and analyzing evidence. This is often a lengthy process depending on the complexity of an offense. The prosecution makes the final determination as to whether charges will be sought.
- Do you go to court after being charged? Yes, law enforcement can sometimes be tedious in its investigation, but a formal charge will mandate court appearance. Once the State formally charges an individual with a criminal offense, the accused must respond to the criminal charge in court.
HOW LONG DOES THE DA HAVE TO FILE CHARGES?
The prosecution can file charges at any time prior to expiration of the relevant Statute of Limitations. For example, a Texas district attorney has 10 years to file charges for Theft by a Public Servant. The prosecution will nonetheless want to proceed as quickly as possible to avoid any delay of constitutional speedy trial challenges.
- How long does someone have to press charges? A person can press charges at any time during the Statute of Limitations for an offense. For example, an assault victim in Texas has 2 years to press charges.
WHAT CRIMES HAVE THE SHORTEST STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS?
Minor misdemeanors generally have the shortest Statutes of Limitations, which range from 1 to 2 years in many jurisdictions. Texas and New York have a 2 year misdemeanor Statute of Limitations while California has a 1 year statute for some misdemeanors like DUI and petty theft.
- What is the limitation period for civil case? Civil cases also have varying time restrictions where a person may be barred from filing a lawsuit after expiration of the Statute of Limitations. For example, many states have a 2 year Statute of Limitation for a car accident lawsuit, including Pennsylvania and Texas. New York has a 3 year time limit for similar claims.
- What are the pros and cons of Statute of Limitations? Statutes of Limitations are beneficial in that they promote fair and accurate trials as evidence, witnesses, and potentially crucial memories disappear with the passage of time. Limitations also restrict the Government from coercively wielding the threat of criminal prosecution indefinitely. On the other hand, limitations may prevent bringing the guilty to justice.
IS THERE ANY WAY AROUND STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?
Yes, Statutes of Limitations can be “tolled,” which is a temporary suspension where the timer is paused and does not count against the time restrictions. The Statute of Limitations can be tolled for a variety of reasons such as the accused individual fleeing the jurisdiction.
- Can limitation period be extended? Yes, the limitation period is effectively extended when it is “tolled,” which is a pause on the Statute of Limitations timer. For example, the tolled period during which an accused flees the jurisdiction will not count against expiration of the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations also tolls while the criminal case is pending in most jurisdictions.
- Can limitation be waived? Yes, many courts have indeed held that an expired Statute of Limitations defense can be waived, although this issue is subject to a fair amount of litigation.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR FBI?
The FBI is subject to the same limitations concerns as any other law enforcement agency. However, the FBI is uniquely charged with handling very serious offenses that often have no Statute of Limitations, like terrorism.
- How long do police have to investigate a crime? There is no time restriction for police to investigate a crime except that police will generally want to file a case as quickly as possible to avoid exceeding the Statute of Limitations. Indeed, police have been known to solve many “cold case” murders decades after commission of an offense.
- What do police do when they investigate? During a criminal investigation police will interview witnesses, catalog and review physical evidence, and conduct forensic testing, among other tasks. Once police complete an investigation, they present the case to the prosecution, who then decides whether to proceed with formal charges.
HOW LONG BEFORE A CRIME CANNOT BE PROSECUTED?
A crime can be prosecuted at any time prior to expiration of its Statute of Limitations. Different offenses will have different Statutes of Limitations with more serious felonies carrying longer statutes. In Illinois, for example, Theft of Property exceeding $100,000 has a 7 year Statute of Limitations.
- How long can a felony charge be pending? While a felony charge must be filed within the Statute of Limitations, there is no specific time restriction on how long it can be pending once it is filed. However, a significant caveat is that prejudicial delay attributable to the prosecution can cause dismissal of a charge as a constitutional speedy trial violation.
HOW LONG DOES THE STATE HAVE TO FILE CHARGES?
The State can file charges at any time prior to expiration of the Statute of Limitations for an offense. In Texas, for example, the State has 2 years to file charges for Assault-Bodily Injury, 3 years to file charges for many felonies like drug possession, 10 years for more serious felonies, and no time limitation with Murder, among other offenses.
- How long can a case stay open? There is no specific time limit on how long a case can be pending once it is filed, except that accused individuals have constitutional speedy trial rights. These protections mean that a prejudicial delay of a criminal case by the prosecution can result in a dismissal of criminal charges in some instances.
- Exceptions to Statute of Limitations? Severe felonies like Murder and child sex crimes have no Statutes of Limitations, which mean that a person can be prosecuted so long as they are still alive. Additionally, the Statute of Limitations can be “tolled,” or temporarily paused, during certain periods such as when a suspect is a fugitive from justice.
TREY PORTER NAMED BEST LAWYER IN CRIMINAL DEFENSE
Trey Porter is a dynamic advocate, nationally recognized for his work in Criminal Defense. He has been voted by his peers as a best lawyer in the field of Criminal and DWI Defense every year since 2015. Recognized by SuperLawyers, Mr. Porter has also been distinguished as a Top 40 Under 40 Criminal Defense Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Porter holds a Superb rating from AVVO, where attorneys are rated based on skillful litigation, client satisfaction, peer endorsements, and positive results. Learn more.
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Trey Porter Law
Statutes of Limitations vary across jurisdictions and between offenses, with felony crimes having lengthier limitations than misdemeanors.