Similar to time limits for civil lawsuits, state prosecutors are required to file criminal charges within the limits established by the criminal statute of limitations. These time limits start running at the time the crime was committed, but the "clock" may be paused if the suspect is trying to evade law enforcement or living out of state.
These time limits for criminal charges are meant to help preserve the integrity of evidence, including witness testimony, and maintain greater efficiency in the criminal justice system generally. Murder usually has no statute of limitations, but time limits typically are divided by crime classification (felony or misdemeanor).
Rhode Island Criminal Statute of Limitations at a Glance
In Rhode Island, there is no statute of limitations for murder, arson, burglary, counterfeiting, robbery, rape, sexual assault, child molestation, and other serious crimes. That means people can be charged with these crimes no matter how much time has passed.
Most other felonies and misdemeanors have a three-year time limit during which charges have to be filed.
Additional details of Rhode Island's time limits for criminal charges are listed below. See Time Limits to Bring a Case: The Statute of Limitations to learn about similar time limits used in civil law.
||Criminal Statute of Limitations
||The length of time for which prosecution proceedings can be commenced for a crime.
- Treason against state, homicide, arson, burglary, counterfeiting, forgery, robbery, rape, first-degree sexual assault, bigamy, manufacturing, selling, distributing or possession of controlled substance, or any offense for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment, or conspiracy to any of the above: no time limit
- Larceny, receiving stolen goods, embezzlement, fraudulent conversion by agent or factor, obtaining signature by false pretenses, bribery, giving false document to agent, employee, or public official, extortion, racketeering, antitrust violation, exploitation of an elder, unlawful appropriation, false financial statement to obtain loan or credit, bank or residential mortgage fraud, or conspiracy to any of the above: charges must be filed within 10 yrs
- Violations of refuse or hazardous waste disposal or water pollution: charges must be filed within 7 yrs
- Second and third-degree sexual assault: charges must be filed within 3 yrs
- Most other charges must be filed within 3 years
- Most misdemeanor charges must be filed within 3 years
|Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
- Child molestation (first and second degree): no time limit
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
- The suspect is trying to evade law enforcement or living out of state.
- Stolen, lost, destroyed information: extends limitation period 1 year
Note: State laws are constantly changing through decisions from higher courts, the enactment of newly signed legislation, and other means. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you should contact a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Rhode Island Criminal Statute of Limitations: Related Resources