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Time Limits for Charges: State Criminal Statutes of Limitations

Prosecutors can only charge someone with certain crimes within a specific amount of time. This is a criminal statute of limitations.

The main purpose of this criminal law is to ensure that evidence leading to a conviction has not deteriorated over a period of time. After a specified amount of time passes, the criminal case can no longer go to trial. This means that the accused person is essentially free of legal consequences from the offense.

Certain civil cases also have statutes of limitations in place. But this article discusses time limits for criminal charges. Each state establishes its own statutes of limitations, often with distinct time limits for different types of crimes.

State Criminal Statutes of Limitations and 'Tolling'

Generally, the prosecutor's "clock" starts only if the criminal suspect remains in the state. If the person flees or goes into hiding, the clock will pause (in legal jargon, "toll") and will resume when the suspected person reenters the state. This is to prevent criminals from avoiding the consequences of their crimes by running and waiting out the authorities. Other circumstances may justify tolling, such as concealment of wrongdoing.

Categories of Crimes

Not all crimes have statutes of limitations. A felony offense like murder, for example, does not have a statute of limitations. This means that a murderer can be brought to justice many decades later. Some states do not have time limits for other types of crime, such as sex offenses like aggravated sexual assault of a child under 18 years of age. Colorado has no statute of limitations for treason. California has none for the embezzlement of public funds.

Some states classify their crimes into categories. In Indiana, for example, Level 3 felonies generally have a five-year statute of limitations. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether an offense is a Level 3 crime. They can also help you learn whether any exceptions to the five-year limitation might apply.

State Criminal Statutes of Limitations: An Overview

The chart below summarizes how long each state's criminal statutes of limitations are:

State

Code Section(s)

Felonies

Misdemeanors

Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run

ALABAMA

15-3-1 et seq.

Capital offenses, or any crime causing death or serious physical injury, arson, forgery, counterfeiting, drug trafficking: none; all other felonies, except conversion of public revenues: five years; conversion of public revenues: six years.

12 months

The time elapsing between two indictments must be deducted from the time for the prosecution of the offense last charged, in certain circumstances.

ALASKA

12.10.010 et seq.

Murder, kidnapping, numerous sex crimes: none; most other felonies: either 10 or five years.

Five years

If outside the state hiding, a maximum extension of three years when a prosecution against the accused for the same conduct is pending in this state.

ARIZONA

13-107

Homicide, violent sexual assault, misuse of public money, falsifying public records: none; other felonies: seven years.

One year; petty offenses: six months.

Absent from state or no reasonably ascertainable residence in state; identity not known.

ARKANSAS

5-1-109

Murder, numerous sex offenses: none; Class Y and A felonies: six years; Class B, C, D, or unclassified felonies: three years.

One year

Continually absent from state or has no reasonably ascertainable home or work within the state, max. extension three years when a prosecution against the accused for the same conduct is pending in this state.

CALIFORNIA

Penal Code 799 et seq.

Offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment, embezzlement of public funds, numerous sex crimes: none; offenses punishable by eight or more years in prison: six years; offenses punishable by imprisonment: three years.

One to four years, depending on the particular misdemeanor.

Not in state, maximum extension three years; statutory periods do not begin until offense is or should have been discovered.

COLORADO

16-5-401

Murder, kidnapping, treason, any sex offense against a child, forgery: none; vehicular homicide: five years.; most other felonies: three years.

18 months generally; Class 1 and 2 and traffic offenses: one year; petty offenses: six months.

Absent from state: five years maximum extension.

CONNECTICUT

54-193 et seq.

Murder or Class A felony: none; most other felonies: five years; sexual abuse, exploitation, or assault: 30 years after victim reaches majority or five years from date victim notifies law enforcement, whichever is earlier; special provisions apply when forensic DNA evidence later identifies the perpetrator.

One year

Fleeing or residing outside state.

DELAWARE

11: 205

Murder, Class A felonies, numerous sex offenses: none; most others: five years unless forensic DNA evidence, then 10 years; any offense which includes forgery, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, theft or misapplication of property, misconduct in public office: additional three years.

Class A: three years; others: two years

Fleeing or hiding from justice action commenced.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

23-113

First- or second-degree murder: none; other felonies in first and second degree: six years; all other crimes: three years; except if offense included official misconduct, fraud, or breach of fiduciary trust: max. Nine years felony, six years misdemeanor.

Three years

Fleeing or action commenced.

FLORIDA

775.15

Felony, life felony, or a felony that resulted in death: none; felony of first degree: four years; any other felony: three years.

First-degree misdemeanor: two years; second-degree or noncriminal violation: one year.

Continually absent from state, no reasonably ascertainable work or abode in state: maximum extension three years..

GEORGIA

17-3-1 et seq.

Murder, certain crimes against children: none; forcible rape: 15 years; other crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment: seven years; other felonies: four years; special provisions apply when DNA evidence later identifies the perpetrator.

Two years.

Nonresident; when person or crime is unknown.

HAWAII

701-108

First or second-degree murder or First or second-degree attempted murder or criminal solicitation to commit murder: none; manslaughter where death was not caused by operating a motor vehicle: 10 years; Class A felony: six years; most others: three years; if fraud or breach of fiduciary obligation is element: two to six years extension after discovery; if based on misconduct in public office: two to three years extension upon discovery.

Misdemeanor or parking violation: two years; petty misdemeanors: one year.

Continuously absent from state or no reasonably ascertainable residence or work within the state, while prosecution is pending: maximum extension four years; prosecution pending.

IDAHO

19-401 et seq.

Murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, sexual abuse of a child or lewd conduct with a child, an act of terrorism: none; other felonies: five years; ritualized abuse of child: three years after initial disclosure by victim

One year

Absent from state.

ILLINOIS

720: 5/3-5 et seq.

First or second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, treason, arson, forgery, child pornography, many sexual offenses: none; certain theft crimes: seven years; most other felonies: three years. Extended limitations under certain circumstances.

18 months

Nonresident prosecution pending.

INDIANA

35-41-4-2

Murder, Level 1, 2 felony: none; Level 3, 4, 5, 6 felony, forgery of an instrument for payment: five years; child molesting, vicarious sexual gratification, child solicitation or seduction, incest: when the alleged victim turns 31 years. of age; Level 3, 4, 5 felony extended one year after DNA evidence revealing the identity of offender discovered or should have been discovered.

Two years.

Nonresident, absent state, conceals self or evidence of crime; prosecution is considered timely if defendant pleads guilty at any time.

IOWA

802.1 et seq.

First- and second-degree murder: none; others: three years; First-, second-, third-degree sex abuse committed on or with a person under 18: none.

Serious misdemeanor: three years; simple misdemeanor or violation of ordinances: one year.

Outside state or nonresident.

KANSAS

21-5107

Murder, terrorism, rape: none; most sexually violate crimes: 10 years or within one year of DNA evidence establishing offender's identity, whichever is later; most other felonies: five years.

Five years

Absent from state or concealed within the state; concealed crime.

KENTUCKY

500.050

Felony: no time limit.

One year

 

LOUISIANA

Crim. Proc. Art. 571 et seq.

Crimes with the punishment of death or life imprisonment: none; felony punishable by hard labor: six years; felony not necessarily punishable by hard labor: four years; forcible rape, none; forcible rape, sexual battery (aggravated), carnal knowledge, indecent behavior or molestation of juvenile, crime against nature involving victim under 17 years of age: 30 years beginning when the victim turns 18 years old.

Punishment of fine, imprisonment, or both: two years; fine or forfeiture, within six months.

Avoiding detection; fleeing outside the state; absent residence in state; lacks the mental capacity to proceed at trial.

MAINE

17-A: 8

Murder, first- and second-degree criminal homicide, incest, rape, or gross sexual assault if the victim is under 16 years of age: none; Class A, B, or C crimes involving gross sexual assault or unlawful sexual touching: eight years; other Class A, B, or C crimes: six years; Class D, E crime: three years; if breach of fiduciary obligation: one year, max. extension: five years; official misconduct: two years, max. extension: five years.

 

Absent state or prosecution pending in state: maximum five years extension.

MARYLAND

Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-106

Felony crimes: none; civil charges: three years

Generally one year with exceptions (up to three years).

 

MASSACHUSETTS

277: 63

Murder: none; robbery, intent to rob or murder with a dangerous weapon: 10 years; rape, assault with intent to rape, rape/abuse/assault of a child: 15 years; others: six years; indecent assault on a child, on mentally retarded person, rape/abuse/assault of a child, kidnapping of minor, sexual offenses such as drugging for sex, enticing for marriage, inducing minor into prostitution, lewd and lascivious behavior or acts, dissemination of harmful matter to minors, exhibiting nudity, or crime against nature: when the victim reaches 16 years old or violation is reported, whichever is earlier

Six years.

Tolled when the defendant is not usually and publicly resident.

MICHIGAN

767.24

Murder: none; kidnapping, extortion, assault with intent or conspiracy to murder: 10 years; identity theft: six years; if the victim was under age 18 for any degree of sexual conduct or assault with intent to commit sexual conduct or any sexually abusive activity or material to minor: 15 years or when the victim turns 28 years old, whichever is later; if DNA evidence obtained: none until offender identified, then 10 years after identification or when victim turns 28, whichever is later.

Six years.

Not resident, did not usually and publicly reside.

MINNESOTA

628.26

Murder, kidnapping, many sex crimes, labor trafficking of minors: none; bribery, medical assistance fraud, theft: six years (if value of property/services in theft is over $35,000: five years); familial sexual abuse, criminal sexual conduct: nine years or if victim under 18 years of age, within three years after; if DNA evidence collected and capable of testing: any time after offense is reported; arson, environmental offenses: five years; all others: three years.

Three years.

Not inhabitant of or usually resident within state.

MISSISSIPPI

99-1-5

Murder, manslaughter, arson, burglary, forgery, counterfeiting, robbery, larceny, rape, numerous other sexual crimes, embezzlement, obtaining money under false pretenses of property: none; most others: two years.

Two years.

Absent state, fleeing, hiding.

MISSOURI

556.036

Murder or Class A felony: none; others: three years; unlawful sexual offenses involving a person under 17 years old: 10 years; others: three years; if fraud or breach of fiduciary duty is a material element of offense: one-three years after discovery; official misconduct: two to three years after the offense or public employment.

One year; infractions: six months

Absent state, hiding: maximum three-year extension; prosecution pending for same conduct, lacks mental fitness: maximum three-year extension.

MONTANA

45-1-205; 45-1-206

Deliberate, mitigated, or negligent homicide: none; others: five years; sexual assault, sexual intercourse without consent, indecent exposure, deviate sexual conduct, incest, sexual or ritual abuse of a child if the victim is under 18 years old at the time of the offense: within 10 years of the victim turning 18 years old; theft involving breach of fiduciary obligation: within one year of discovery or if involving a minor, within one year of termination of minority; unlawful use of computer: within one year of discovery of offense

One year; misdemeanor of fish, wildlife, or outfitter activity laws: within three years after the offense committed.

When the offender is not usually and publicly resident of the state, or beyond the jurisdiction of the state; prosecution pending for the same conduct.

NEBRASKA

29-110

Murder, treason, arson, forgery, numerous sexual assault crimes: none; most others: three years; if the victim is less than 16 years old at the time of the offense, kidnapping, false imprisonment, child abuse, pandering, debauching a minor: seven years from the offense or victim's 16th birthday, whichever is later.

18 months; if fine less than $100 or jail time less than three months: one year.

Fleeing justice.

NEVADA

Section 171. 080 et seq.

Murder, terrorism, certain sexual assault offenses: none; theft, robbery, arson, burglary, forgery: four years; sexual assault: 20 years; sex trafficking: six years any other felony: within three years.

Gross misdemeanor: two years; others: one year.

Prosecution commences when indictment is presented.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

625: 8

Murder: none; Class A or B felony or unemployment compensation offense: six years; offense of hunting game or fur-bearing animals or violation of off-highway recreational vehicles: three years; breach of fiduciary duty: within one year of offense; official misconduct: within two years of offense; sexual assault and related offenses when victim is under 18 years old: within 22 years of victim's 18th birthday.

one year; violations: three months.

Absent state, no residence or work in state; prosecution pending for same conduct.

NEW JERSEY

2C: 1-6

Murder, manslaughter: none; official misconduct, bribery, and related offenses: seven years; others: five years.

Petty offense or disorderly persons offense: one year.

Fleeing justice; prosecution pending for same conduct.

NEW MEXICO

30-1-8 et seq.

Capital or first-degree felony: none; second-degree: six years; third- and fourth-degree: five years; many others: three years.

Two years; petty: one year.

Fleeing justice or not usually or publicly resident of the state; enumerated procedural defects; when DNA evidence is available, and the suspect has not been identified for criminal sexual penetration, a time period won't run until a DNA profile is matched with a suspect.

NEW YORK

Crim. Proc. 30.10

Murder, rape, Class A felonies: none; others: five years; violation of collection, treatment, disposal of refuse and solid waste: four years; breach of fiduciary duty: within one year of discovery of offense; official misconduct: five years of offense.

Two years; petty offenses: one year; tax law misdemeanor: three years. (NY City adm. code)

Absent state or whereabouts unknown: up to five years.

NORTH CAROLINA

15-1

None

Malicious misdemeanor: none; certain misdemeanors related to juveniles: 10 years; others: two years.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

29-04-01 to 04

Murder: none; others: three years; certain sex/trafficking crimes: seven years; sexual abuse of children: 10 years or within three years of when the crime was reported or when DNA conclusively identifies the perpetrator.

Two years.

Absent state.

OHIO

2901.13

Murder or aggravated murder: none; others: six years; fraud or breach of fiduciary duty: within one year of discovery of offense; official misconduct: within two years; manslaughter, kidnapping, rape, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, compelling prostitution, arson, robbery, burglary, aggravated riot, felonious or aggravated assault of a peace officer, felonious assault, or conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the above: 20 years.

Two years; minor misdemeanor: six months.

Absent state or conceals identity or whereabouts or undiscovered corpus delicti; prosecution pending for same conduct.

OKLAHOMA

22-151 to 22-153

Murder: none; bribery, embezzlement or misappropriation of public money or other assets, falsification of public records, conspiracy to defraud state or other subdivision, rape or forcible sodomy; lewd or indecent proposals or acts against children crimes involving minors in pornography, sodomy: seven years; (extended if DNA evidence collected and preserved: within three years of identity establishment of offender through DNA testing); criminal conspiracy, embezzlement, criminal state income tax violations: five years; all others: three years.

Three years.

Absent state or not a resident of the state.

OREGON

131.125

Murder, manslaughter: none; certain sexual felonies including sexual abuse, rape: 12 years or if the victim was under 18 years old at the time of the offense, any time before the victim turns 30 years old; various other crimes: six years.

Sexual misdemeanors: sexual abuse in the 3rd degree or sending, furnishing, exhibiting, or displaying obscene materials to minors: four years after the offense is reported or if the victim is under 18 years old, upon turning 22 years old, whichever occurs first.

Absent state, hides within the state, not resident of the state; maximum extension of three years.

PENNSYLVANIA

42: 5551-5554

Murder, manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy to murder, soliciting to commit murder and murder results, felony connected with 1st- or 2nd-degree murder, vehicular homicide, many serious offenses against children: none; major offenses or conspiracy or solicitation to commit major offense: five years; others: two years; fraud or breach of fiduciary duty: three years; official misconduct: eight years; sexual offense committed against a minor: period of limitation starts when minor reaches age 18; major sexual offenses: 12 years.

Two years; summary offenses: 30 days.

Absent from state; no ascertainable residence or place of work within the state; prosecution pending for same conduct.

RHODE ISLAND

12-12-17; 12-12-18

Treason against state; homicide, arson, burglary, counterfeiting, forgery, robbery, rape, sexual assault, child molestation, bigamy, manufacturing, selling, distributing or possession of controlled substance, or conspiracy to any of the above: none; larceny, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, racketeering, antitrust violation, or conspiracy to any of the above: 10 years; violations of refuse or hazardous waste disposal or water pollution: seven years; others: three years.

Three years.

Stolen, lost, destroyed information: extends limitation period one year

SOUTH CAROLINA

No statute of limitation for any criminal prosecution.

     

SOUTH DAKOTA

23A-42-1 et seq.

Murder, Class A, B, or C felony: none; most other public offenses: seven years.

Seven years.

Absent state.

TENNESSEE

40-2-101 et seq.

Any crime punishable by death or life imprisonment: none; Class A felony: 15 years; Class B felony: eight years; defrauding state, evading or defeating any tax, fraudulent return: six years; Class C or D felony: four years; Class E felony: two years; others: three years; certain offenses committed against a child: 25 years. after the child reaches the age of 18; arson: eight years.

Gaming: six months; others: 12 months.

Concealing fact of the crime, absent state.

TEXAS

12.01, et seq.

Murder, manslaughter, numerous sex crimes: none; certain theft offenses, forgery, arson: 10 years; money laundering: seven years; other theft offenses, robbery: five years; others: three years.

Two years.

Absent state, pendency of indictment, information complaint.

UTAH

76-1-301, et seq.

Murder, manslaughter, numerous sex crimes: none; other felony or negligent homicide: up to eight years (four years from the time reported); fraud or breach of fiduciary obligation, official misconduct: three years max.; misuse of public monies, bribery: two years after facts are reported to the prosecutor; special provisions apply when DNA evidence identifies the perpetrator at a later date.

Two years; infractions: one year.

Absent state.

VERMONT

13 V.S.A. Section 4501

Murder, arson causing death, kidnapping, numerous sex crimes: none; maiming, other sex crimes: 40 years; arson: 11 years; manslaughter, grand larceny, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, forgery, bribery, false claims, fraud, and felony tax offenses: six years.

Three years.

 

VIRGINIA

19.2-8

Murder or manslaughter: none; cruelty to animals: five years. (except for agricultural animals: one year); benefits fraud, tax evasion, environmental and conservation violations: three years; malfeasance in office, Building Code violations: two years; violation of Campaign Finance Disclosure Act: within one year of discovery, max. three years after the offense.

Petit larceny: five years; attempt to produce abortion: two years; others: one year.

Fleeing justice or concealing self to avoid arrest.

WASHINGTON

9A.04.080

Murder, homicide offenses, many sex crimes against minors: none; certain rape offenses: 20 years; arson, attempted murder, third-degree rape: 10 years; other felonies: six years; class C felonies: five years; various crimes against children: until the child turns 30; special provisions apply when DNA evidence identifies the perpetrator at a later date.

Gross misdemeanors: two years; other offenses: one year.

Not publicly a resident.

WEST VIRGINIA

61-11-9

No time limit for felonies

Petty larceny or perjury: three years; others: one year.

Stolen, lost, destroyed indictment.

WISCONSIN

939.74

Homicide: none; certain crimes against a child: before the victim turns 45 years old; other felonies: six years; special provisions apply when DNA evidence identifies the perpetrator at a later date.

Misdemeanors or adultery: three years.

Not publicly resident; if the victim is unable to seek issuance of a complaint, that time period excluded due to threats, etc.; prosecution pending for same act.

WYOMING

No statute of limitation for any criminal prosecution

     

Need Assistance with a State Criminal Statute of Limitations? Contact a Lawyer

A statute of limitations can be crucial for securing the freedom of a criminal defendant. If you have been accused of a crime and believe that prosecutors filed the criminal case after the expiration of the statute of limitations, you should consult with an attorney for legal advice.

Contact a qualified criminal defense lawyer near you to learn more.

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