Virginia establishes time limits, as do all other states, for how soon after an arrest a prosecutor must file formal criminal charges. Known as statutes of limitation, these laws are meant to preserve the integrity of evidence and to ensure an efficient justice system.
Most misdemeanors in Virginia have a one-year time limit, including minor assault and battery and certain theft charges. However, Virginia is unique in that it does not have a statute of limitations for most felonies. Crimes for which there is no statute of limitations include aggravated assault and battery, rape, murder, burglary, kidnapping, manslaughter, and robbery.
When Does the 'Clock' Start Ticking?
If we think of the statute of limitations as a clock, it doesn't necessarily start "ticking" once the crime has been committed or for the duration of time following a crime. For example, the clock does not run if the suspect is out of state or otherwise living as a fugitive. So if someone commits a crime and flees the state that same day, even for several decades, the clock will begin ticking the moment that person reenters the state.
The basic provisions of Virginia's criminal statute of limitations are highlighted in the chart below. See Details on State Criminal Statute of Limitations for a general overview.
||Criminal Statute of Limitations
||The length of time for which prosecution proceedings can be commenced for a crime.
||Va. Code sec. 19.2-8
- Most felonies, including: murder, rape, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration, aggravated sexual battery, infected sexual battery: none
- Attempted felonies listed above: none
- Unlawful creation of image of another, cruelty to animals: 5 yrs (except for agricultural animals: 1 yr)
- Malfeasance in office, Building Code violations: 2 yrs
- Petit larceny: 5 yrs
- Violation of the Virginia Computer Crimes Act or identity theft: 5 yrs (after the last act in the course of violation) or 1 yr (following the existence of illegal act and identity of offender are discovered)
- Making false presentation under VA Unemployment Compensation Act to receive benefits, attempt to evade or failure to pay taxes, violation of laws re: discharge, dumping, or emission of toxic substance, violation of rules of VA Real Estate Board, violation for which a penalty is provided, falsifying patient records, illegal sales of wild birds, animals, or freshwater fish: 3 yrs
- Attempt to produce abortion: 2 yrs
- Practicing law without authority: 2 yrs
- Misdemeanor violation (including of any professional licensure requirement imposed by a locality): within 1 yr of discovery, max 5 yrs after offense
- Others: 1 yr
|Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
- Statutory rape (referred to as carnal knowledge) of a child between 13 and 15: none
- Statutory rape (referred to as carnal knowledge) of certain minors: none
- Misdemeanor attempted sexual battery of a minor: within 1 yr after the victim reaches majority
- Sexual abuse of a child under 15: within 1 yr after the victim reaches majority
- Taking indecent liberties with children: none
- Penetration of mouth of child with lascivious intent: within 1 yr after the victim reaches majority
- Violation of laws governing the placement of children for adoption without a license: 1 yr
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
- Fleeing justice or concealing self to avoid arrest
- Desertion of a spouse or child or for neglect or failure to provide support
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Virginia Criminal Statute of Limitations: Related Resources
Learn More About Virginia Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws from a Lawyer
Virginia takes a strict approach to crime, and its statute of limitations laws are no different. If you're concerned with how Virginia criminal statute of limitations laws affect your criminal case, or you have other questions about the criminal charges you're facing, it's a good idea to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney near you today.