Prosecutors have time limits for filing charges against defendants, called statutes of limitations. The main reason for these limits is to ensure that convictions are obtained with evidence, whether it's eyewitness testimony or physical evidence, that has not yet deteriorated. As in other states, Georgia criminal statute of limitations laws allow longer periods of time for rape, crimes against children, and other offenses where victims may not report the crime until years later.
While the statute lists specific felonies and their corresponding time limits for bringing charges, those not listed have a 4-year statute of limitations. All misdemeanors have a 2-year statute of limitations.
The basics of Georgia criminal statute of limitations laws are listed in the following table. See Details on State Criminal Statute of Limitations for more information.
||Criminal statute of limitations
||A statute of limitations tells you the time frame when the prosecution must bring a charge for a crime.
||Georgia Code sections 17-3-1 to 17-3-3
- There is no time limit for murder cases.
- Cases for forcible rape must be started within 15 years.
- Cases for other crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment must be started within 7 years.
- Cases for other felonies must be started within 4 years. But if the victim is a minor, the time limit is 7 years.
||Cases for misdemeanors must be started within 2 years.
|Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
- If a time limit for the crime is not already specified, cases for crimes against minors must be started within 7 years of the crime.
- When the victim of crimes such as rape, sodomy, incest, and child molestation is younger than 16 at the time of the crime, the time limit starts when the victim turns 16 or when the violation is reported, whichever is earlier.
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
The time limit does not run when:
- You are not a resident of Georgia
- Your identity is unknown
- The crime is unknown
- You are a government officer or employee charged with theft by conversion of property committed while you were in that position
- You are a guardian or trustee charged with theft by conversion of the property of your ward or beneficiary
Additionally, if the victim of any crime is 65 years old or older at the time of the crime, the time limit does not start until the violation is reported or is discovered by the authorities, whichever is earlier. Unless the general time limit for the crime is more than 15 years, a case must be brought within 15 years under these circumstances.
- If a case is started and then later stopped, the time limit is extended by 6 months from the time the case is stopped.
- If DNA evidence establishes who committed a crime of armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, there is no time limit for starting the case.
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Georgia criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Georgia Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources
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Depending on the severity of the crime, a conviction can deprive you of your freedom for a period of months or years and can have lasting impacts on your life. If you've been charged with a crime in Georgia, it's best to contact a local criminal defense attorney who will ensure that your rights are protected and defend you in court, if necessary.