The answer to this question depends on what crime you committed, how long ago, and where you committed it. Most states place limits on when a criminal prosecution must begin. This is accomplished through what are called statutes of limitations. A statute of limitation is a time period in which a case or a criminal charge must be brought. If the statute of limitations for a crime is 10 years, then if the crime is committed and 10 years go by, you cannot be convicted for that crime, even if your are guilty.
Some crimes there are time limitations that are set for the prosecution to be allowed to bring a criminal charge against the defense. However, there are some crimes, mostly major crimes, that do not have any time limitations and you can be prosecuted and charged for the crime no matter how much time has gone by.
A statute of limitations is a time limit that is set for bringing a lawsuit or filing a criminal charge. There are different limitations, rules, and basics that surround statute of limitations for criminal charges. Minor crimes have a shorter statute of limitations while more major crimes have longer statute of limitations or no limitations at all. For example, a charge for murder can be brought against someone at anytime after the crime has been committed.
In criminal law cases, the delay in time for bringing the criminal charges is considered prejudicial by the prosecution and is sometimes used as a defense by the defendant.
Statues of limitations vary from state to state. Different offenses have different limitation periods. The general rule is that the more serious the offense, the longer the limitation period. Murder usually does not have a limitation period, meaning charges can be brought at any time. In addition, there may be different limitation periods between state and federal systems. A criminal defense attorney in your area is likely to be familiar with the local laws.
If a statute of limitations is tolled, that means that it has been suspended. In other words, it stops running. You can think of the statute of limitations as a clock. If the statue calls for an 8 year limitation period, then the clock runs for 8 years. Once the clock runs out, you cannot be convicted. But, if the statute of limitations is tolled, the clock stops running, thus extending the 8 years.
Tolling usually occurs when the person who committed a crime leaves the jurisdiction (or state) of where the crimes was committed. Recently, states have amended their laws to also include tolling for when physical evidence undergoing DNA analysis.
If you are being prosecuted for a crime that you have committed and the statute of limitations has run on the time that crime was committed, the expiration of the statute of limitation can be a defense to a crime. This means that charges can be brought even if the time period has run. You must raise the issue and argue that the statute of limitations bars the case.
If you ever commit a crime or are accused of committing a crime you should consult an attorney immediately. In addition, if you believe that the statute of limitations has expired on the crime that you committed and the delay in the prosecution is prejudicial an experienced criminal defense lawyer can advise you of your rights and defenses and inform you about the complicated criminal legal system.
Last Modified: 06-17-2015 06:01 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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