Pennsylvania's criminal code, like statute of limitations laws in other states, sets limits for how long a prosecutor may wait to file formal criminal charges. There is no time limit to bring charges for serious crimes such as murder, but lesser offenses have between a 2- and 12-year statute of limitations, depending on the specific offense. The deadline for filing misdemeanor charges, for instance, is 2 years. The statute of limitations for official misconduct (i.e. a politician or someone in public office) is between 5 and 8 years.
Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws in Pennsylvania
The following chart provides the basics of Pennsylvania criminal statute of limitations law.
||Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws
||The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Pennsylvania law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from two years to no limit.
||Tit. 42 Sections 5551; 5552; 5553 and 5554
- Murder: No time limit.
- Voluntary manslaughter: No time limit.
- Conspiracy to murder: No time limit.
- Soliciting to commit murder and murder results: No time limit.
- Any felony connected with 1st or 2nd-degree murder: No time limit.
- Vehicular homicide: No time limit.
- Aggravated assault if the accused knew the victim was a law enforcement officer that was acting within the officer's duties: No time limit.
- Rape: 12 years time limit.
- Statutory sexual assault: 12 years time limit.
- Incest: 12 years time limit.
- Sexual abuse of children: 12 years time limit.
- Any offense committed by a public officer or employee in the course of their office/employment: Prosecution must begin while defendant is still in office or 5 years after offense, but no more than 8 years.
- Criminal attempt/solicitation/conspiracy to commit murder and no murder occurred: 5 years time limit.
- Aggravated assault: 5 years time limit.
- Terroristic threats: 5 years time limit.
- Kidnapping: 5 years time limit.
- Arson: 5 years time limit.
- Burglary: 5 years time limit.
- Robbery: 5 years time limit.
- Forgery: 5 years time limit.
- Insurance fraud: 5 years time limit.
- Bribery in official or political matters: 5 years time limit.
- Perjury: 5 years time limit.
- Intimidation of witnesses or victims: 5 years time limit.
- Prostitution: 5 years time limit.
- Any other felony: 2 years.
|Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
- Sexual abuse of children: 12 years time limit.
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
- Accused is absent from the state.
- Accused has no definite residence or place of work within the state.
- There is a prosecution against the accused pending for the same offense.
- Crimes involving injuries caused by wrongful act/neglect/unlawful violence/negligence of a child under 18 years of age done by the parent or person responsible for the child.
- If evidence of a misdemeanor or felony sexual offense is obtained containing DNA, and it is used to identify the perpetrator of the offense: Prosecution must begin within the statute of limitations for the crime or one year after identity of individual is determined, whichever is later.
- Any offenses under Title 75 (relating to vehicles): 30 days after the commission of the alleged offense or within 30 days after the discovery of the offense or identity of offender.
The general purpose of statutes of limitation is to ensure that criminal convictions occur only upon evidence that has not deteriorated with time. Both physical evidence (like fingerprints) and testimonial evidence (like memory and eyewitnesses) can deteriorate or be lost over time, therefore, time is of the essence in criminal cases.
Most statutes of limitation generally require the alleged criminal to remain in the state and visible, seeming to necessitate that the criminal remains "catchable" while the clock is running on the charge. If authorities fail to discover a criminal living in the open within a specified amount of time, it is thought that the state has determined the criminal should be able to live free from the possibility of prosecution after that point.
Generally, if the criminal is a fugitive, out of the state in which the crime occurred, or otherwise living in hiding, this tolls, or suspends, the statute. However, once the criminal reenters the state, the statute resumes running. Not all crimes are governed by statutes of limitation (murder, for example, has none), and the limitation periods generally vary depending on the seriousness of the crime.
You can visit FindLaw's Details on State Criminal Statute of Limitations section for more general information on this topic.
Related Resources for Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:
State statutes of limitations for criminal cases can vary and change over time. Criminal charges are a serious matter, and you may find it helpful to consult an attorney. You can contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss your case today. Start the process with a free case review.
Learn More About Pennsylvania Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws from a Lawyer
Each state has its statute of limitations law and it affects the charges in most crimes. The common denominator is that the timing can be critical regarding taking the next steps. If you're concerned about how the Pennsylvania criminal statute of limitations affects your case, you should speak with a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.