A “statute of limitations," in the criminal law context, is a law that limits when a person can be taken to trial for a crime he or she is suspected of committing. One of the reasons for this is to ensure that the evidence and witnesses' memories are fresh when a case goes to trial. However, some crimes have no limit to when they can be tried, usually because of their especially violent or malicious nature, such as murder or sex crimes with child victims.
The following table details the criminal statute of limitations in Alabama.
||Criminal statute of limitations
||A statute of limitations tells you the time frame when the prosecution must bring a charge for a crime.
||Alabama Code sections 15-3-1 to 15-3-8
There's no limit to when some felonies can be tried, including:
- Any capital offense (various types of murder)
- Felonies with the use, attempted use, or threat of violence
- Felonies where serious physical injury or death resulted
- Any sex offense involving a victim under 16 years old
- Drug trafficking crimes
All other felonies, unless otherwise stated, have a 5-year time period within which the prosecutor must start a criminal action against you. An action for theft by conversion of state or county revenues must be started within 6 years of the conversion.
||All misdemeanors, unless otherwise stated, must have an action started against you within 12 months after the crime was committed. An action for unlawfully taking or using another person's property temporarily must begin within 30 days of the offense.
|Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
||Any sex offense involving a victim under 16 years old can be tried at any time.
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
||If the prosecution stops with one indictment and later starts with another, that time is counted towards the limit, whether it is 12 months, 3 years, or another time period.
The prosecution is deemed to have started, for the purposes of the statute of limitations, when:
- There's been an indictment through a grand jury, where the prosecutor brings evidence gathered by the police;
- A warrant was issued; or
- The defendant was either placed in jail or is out on bond or bail before trial.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Alabama's statute of limitations laws are fairly straightforward compared to those of other states, but they can still be confusing. You should see an experienced attorney if you are worried that your past behavior might be prosecuted or just need help understanding how the law could affect your case. Get started today by reaching out to an Alabama defense attorney.