Every state has time limits for filing criminal charges, called the statute of limitations. Prosecutors have a certain amount of time after a crime has been committed before they must file charges against a suspect, which varies by state and type of crime. Missouri criminal statutes of limitation are fairly uniform, mostly based on the classification of the crime (i.e. felony, misdemeanor).
The reasoning behind statutes of limitation include the importance of preserving evidence -- witness testimony and physical evidence -- and the notion that fear of criminal prosecution (except for the most serious charges) shouldn't hang over suspects' heads indefinitely.
Once the clock has run out, the person who committed the crime is essentially off the hook. But in order for the clock to run, the suspect must be in the state and living openly, and thus not a fugitive or otherwise evading prosecution. To live openly means to be visible and preferably employed.
Civil law also has statutes of limitations, which also vary by state and type of claim. See Time Limits to Bring a Case: The "Statute of Limitations" to learn more.
Missouri Criminal Statute of Limitations at a Glance
Nearly all states, including Missouri, have certain crimes that are not limited by a statute of limitations, murder and class A felonies, for example.
The following chart details Missouri's criminal statute of limitations, with links to related resources. See FindLaw's Criminal Law Basics section for additional articles offering a general overview.
||Criminal Statute of Limitations
||The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Missouri law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from 6 months to no limit.
||Missouri Revised Statutes Section 556.036 and Section 556.037
- Murder, rape, sodomy, or any class A felony: none
- Arson or knowingly burning or exploding: 5 years
- Other felonies: 3 years
- For crimes involving fraud or a breach of fiduciary obligation, the applicable statute of limitation may be brought 1 year after discovering the offense but no more than 3 years beyond the applicable statute of limitations
- Misconduct by a public official or employee: any time the suspect is in office or employed or 2 years afterwards but no more than 3 years
- Intentional and willful fraudulent claim of owed child support made to a public servant: One year after discovery but no more than 3 years
|Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
||Sexual offenses involving a person 18 years of age or younger: none
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
- Any time the accused is absent from the state but extending the statute of limitations by no more than 3 years
- Any time the accused is hiding from justice, either within or outside the state
- Any time the case is pending in the state
- Any time the accused lacks the mental fitness to proceed with a trial
- The time period after a DNA profile is developed until the accused is identified as match to the DNA profile
||Infraction (punishable by fine, forfeiture, or other civil penalty, not jail time): 6 months
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Missouri criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Related Resources for Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:
Learn More About Missouri Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws from a Lawyer
Whether you're charged with a DUI or first-degree murder, you always have the right to a fair trial and are considered innocent until proven guilty. But without an attorney, your odds of defending yourself against charges are very slim. Get started on your case by contacting a criminal defense attorney in Missouri today.