The statute of limitations (SOL) in a criminal case means the time within which the state must file charges against you. If the state misses the deadline, it is barred from filing charges against you. For example, if the statute of limitations is one year, and the state does not charge you within one year of the time you allegedly committed the offense, you are “home free.” They can no longer charge you with that particular crime because the SOL has “run.”
Different categories of crimes have different statute of limitations and some very serious offenses have no statute of limitations. A Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer will help you sort through the various statute of limitations to find the one that applies to your specific offense.
Applicable Statute of Limitations for General Types of Offenses
- No limitations: A felony that could result in the death penalty or a sentence of life in prison, or any felony that resulted in the death of another person, has no limitation.
- Charges for a first degree felony: Any charge for a first degree felony must be brought within 4 years of the commission of the offense.
- All other felonies: Second and third degree felonies must be charged within 3 years of the commission of the offense.
- First degree misdemeanor: Must be brought within 2 years of the commission of the offense.
- Second degree misdemeanor or noncriminal violation: Must be brought within 1 year of its commission.
An offense has been committed when every element of the crime has occurred. A prosecution has been commenced when charges have been filed or an indictment returned.
Statute of Limitations for Specific Offenses
There are a few types of offenses for which different statute of limitations apply. Some examples include:
- Abuse of the elderly: 5 years.
- Securities violations: 5 years.
- Environmental control violations: 5 years.
- Fraudulent conduct: 3 years.
- Public office misconduct: within 2 years of leaving office or according to the degree of offense.
- Sexual offenses: Does not begin running until the victim reaches the age of 16.
When Statute of Limitations is Tolled
When certain events prevent charging a defendant, the statute of limitations is tolled. For example, if you flee the jurisdiction so you cannot be found, the SOL will be extended for up to three years.
If you have been accused or charged with a crime, and you believe the statute of limitations may have expired, contact an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of James Davis.