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What Is the Statute of Limitations for Theft?

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

What's the statute of limitations for theft? The answer depends on many factors, such as the value of what was stolen, and of course the laws in your jurisdiction.

For example, the statute of limitations period may be three years in California for a felony theft. However, if the crime is considered a misdemeanor, the statute may only be one year. However, the limitations period would be different if you lived in Arizona or New Jersey.

To figure out which statute of limitations applies in your specific case, you will need to talk to an attorney. But here are some general considerations:

Felony or Misdemeanor Theft?

Generally, the statute of limitations for crimes like theft depend on whether the state charges you with a felony or a misdemeanor. This distinction can depend upon factors like the amount stolen, who the victim was, and even whether you have a prior history of theft.

For example, a state may define grand theft (a felony) as the stealing of property worth more than $950. But the law may also include thefts of lesser amounts from elderly or handicapped people to be grand theft regardless of amount stolen. In these cases, prosecutors may also have a longer period of time to bring charges.

If the theft is petty, however, prosecutors may have a shorter period of time to bring charges.

When Does Statute of Limitations Begin to Run?

Often, victims of theft may not realize that they have been victimized for many days if not years. This is especially true when the theft involves small amounts of money over a long period of time or if the thief is a fiduciary of the victim.

So if the theft is not discovered for five years, you may be wondering whether the alleged thief can skate free?

Again, the answer to this question depends upon the law in the state where the crime was committed. Some states may provide that the statute of limitations begins to run as soon as the crime is committed. Others may provide that the time period begins after the crime is discovered.

As you can see, the statute of limitations for theft can be a complicated matter, and it can be vital to your defense. If you have any questions, you should talk to an experienced attorney.

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