Criminal Statute of Limitations in Tennessee: Overview
Prosecutors must file charges against a defendant within a certain period of time in all but the most serious crimes. These time limits are called the statute of limitations, which also apply to civil cases (see Time Limits to Bring a Case: The Statute of Limitations to learn more).
In Tennessee, the statute of limitations does not apply to any crime punishable by death or life in prison. Other felonies have statute of limitations ranging from two years to 15 years. Most misdemeanors in the state have a 12-month time limit.
The following chart details the various time limits for filing criminal charges in Tennessee.
||Criminal Statute of Limitations
||The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Tennessee law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from 6 months to no limit.
||T.C.A. Sections 40-2-101 to 40-2-106
- Any crime punishable by death or life in prison, aggravated rape, or rape: none
- Class A felony: 15 years
- Class B felony: 8 years
- Class C or D felony: 4 years
- Class E felony: 2 years
- Revenue law offenses: generally 3 years
- Specific revenue offenses, including defrauding the state or its agencies, tax evasion, preparing a false or fraudulent tax return, not paying taxes owed: 6 years
- Arson: 8 years
||1 year except gaming, which is 6 months
|Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
||Sex trafficking, aggravated rape, rape, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery, statutory rape, aggravated statutory rape, mitigated statutory rape, felonious indecent exposure, prostitution, sexual abuse, solicitation, unlawful photographing, incest, or sexual exploitation: none (subject to applicable time limits set by law before July 1, 2019)
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
||When the suspect conceals the crime, or when the suspect is not publicly residing in Tennessee.
||Criminal impersonation by using a fraudulently obtained driver license: 1 year from the date the license expires or 3 years from when the non-expired license was last used, whichever is longer.
Note: State laws are constantly changing. FindLaw makes an effort to regularly update state laws, although they may not always reflect recent changes. Make sure you contact a Tennessee criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
What is the Purpose of Time Limits for Criminal Charges?
The criminal statute of limitations is meant to encourage an efficient criminal justice system, discourage the constant threat of arrest, and make sure evidence (including witness testimony) is reliable at the time charges are filed. If someone has committed theft, for example, but isn't arrested until 45 years later, it's unlikely the evidence is reliable after so much time has passed. These time limits also hold police and prosecutors to a higher standard of urgency and diligence by ensuring a suspect has a speedy trial.
Research the Law
Tennessee Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources
Are You a Suspect in a Criminal Investigation? Get Legal Help Now
Whether it's a drunk driving charge or petty theft, all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty and have the right to defend themselves in court. But in order to put your best foot forward, it helps to have the right legal representation. If you believe you're under suspicion for a crime or have already been charged, you will probably want to work with a Tennessee criminal defense attorney.