Statute of Limitations: You Can Relax This Labor Day Knowing Your Crime Has Expired
The Constitution includes provisions that guarantee a speedy, fair trial to anyone that has been formally charged with a criminal offense. This right was intended to prevent the abuse of legal and judicial power by the court system.
The statute of limitations has a similar function, although it is applied in a different way. This statute limits the amount of time in which formal criminal charges can be brought against a person after a crime has been committed.
For example, if a person commits a crime and is not caught in the act, there is a predetermined amount of time in which to file charges or that person will no longer be eligible to be charged for that offense. After a great deal of time has passed, defendants may forget important facts or details about their case. This statute is intended to ensure that defendants have a fair defense.
How Does the Statute of Limitations Work?
Congress has created a uniform statute of limitations for federal offenses. Many states have created their own statutes of limitation but they are not identical from state to state. Both Congress and the states have designated some crimes to which the statute of limitations does not apply. For these crimes, charges may be filed at any time, no matter how much time has passed since the commission of the crime.
Most federal crimes have a statute of limitations of five years. In other words, if five years pass after a crime has been committed and no charges have been filed, the defendant cannot be charged with that crime in the future.
Other crimes can have limitations of 6, 8, 10 or 20 years. Some examples of time limits for prosecution:
- Contempt of federal court – 1 year
- Destruction of federal property – 8 years
- Harboring illegal aliens – 10 years
- Major art theft – 20 years
For certain crimes, the statute of limitations does not apply. These are crimes that are considered especially serious, violent or dangerous. In addition, some crimes that have ongoing elements, like conspiracy offenses, may not be subject to prosecution limitations.
In other words, a person who commits one of these offenses may be arrested, charged and convicted at any point in the future.
Some of these offenses:
- Sexual abuse of a child
- Use of weapons of mass destruction
- Murder while in possession of a firearm during a violent crime
Speak with a Qualified Attorney Today
The list of federal offenses to which the statute of limitations applies is extremely long. Consulting with a lawyer is the best way to find out if a defendant is in the clear because a crime has expired. Schedule your free case review today w
ith James Alston.