What is the Statute of Limitations?

In general, the “statute of limitations” is a legal term for time limits. The statute of limitations is meant to function as a type of “gatekeeper” on when and how charges can be brought. It is meant to build fairness into legal proceedings. In the context of federal charges, time limits stop federal prosecutors from bringing charges for alleged crimes that happened years ago.

Under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the “Speedy Trial Clause” is meant to protect individuals subject to criminal charges from the unreasonable delay between indictment and trial.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Federal Cases?

With some exceptions, most types of federal charges must be brought by prosecutors within five years from the date of the alleged offense, but this general rule is subject to evaluation on a case-by-case basis. For some types of federal offenses, the statute of limitations is longer. Arson, for example, has a 10-year statute of limitations.

For some types of crimes, there is no statute of limitations.

Expert Tip : The general federal statute of limitations can be found in section 3282 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which provides “no person shall be prosecuted … unless the indictment is found … within five years next after such offense shall have been committed.” Per the United States Supreme Court, criminal statutes of limitations, such as this one, are to be interpreted in favor of the defendant. The United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307 (1971). Nonetheless, a number of federal offenses have a much longer statute of limitations, including fraud against the federal government involving $1,000,000, which has a 7-year statute of limitations.

What Crimes Have No Time Limits?

Many federal offenses have no time limits, meaning that federal prosecutors can generally charge individuals with these crimes at any time, no matter how long ago the alleged offenses took place.

Included among these types of offenses are those involving many sex crimes like failure to register as a sex offender and a multitude of offenses related to child pornography. See 18 U.S.C. § 3283.

Retain Counsel for Representation if You Face Federal Charges

The statute of limitations may or may not be a valid defense in your case. Even if it is not, a lawyer can help protect your rights and improve the outcome. Request a consultation with us at 919-838-6643.

Expert Ti p: If your case is one in which the statute of limitations defense can be raised, you must raise it or risk losing it, meaning that the prosecutor can continue to proceed against you even though the time limits have passed. In legal terms, the statute of limitations is an “affirmative defense,” not a jurisdictional prerequisite; as such, a defendant waives the statute of limitations defense by failing to assert it. The United States v. Williams, 684 F.2d. 296 (4 th Cir. 1982).

State v. B.S.: Not Guilty Verdict in First Degree Murder Case.

In this case, our client was charged with First Degree Murder in connection with a “drive by” shooting that occurred in Charlotte, NC. The State’s evidence included GPS ankle monitoring data linking our client was at the scene of the crime and evidence that our client confessed to an inmate while in jail. Nonetheless, we convinced a jury to unanimously find our client Not Guilty. He was released from jail the same day.

State v. S.G.: First Degree Murder Charge Dismissed.

Our client was charged with First Degree for the shooting death related to an alleged breaking and entering. The State’s evidence included a co-defendant alleging that our client was the shooter. After conducting a thorough investigation with the use of a private investigator, we persuaded the State to dismiss entirely the case against our client.

State v. B.D.: First Degree Murder Charged Dismissed.

After conducting an investigation and communicating with prosecutor about the facts and circumstances indicating that our client acted in self-defense, the case was dismissed and deemed a justifiable homicide.

State v. I.R.: Reduction from First Degree Murder to Involuntary Manslaughter and Concealment of Death.

Our client was charged with the First Degree Murder of a young lady by drug overdose. After investigating the decedent’s background and hiring a preeminent expert toxicologist to fight the State’s theory of death, we were able to negotiate this case down from Life in prison to 5 years in prison, with credit for time served.

State v. J.G.:

Our client was charged with First Degree Murder related to a “drug deal gone bad.” After engaging the services of a private investigator and noting issues with the State’s case, we were able to negotiate a plea for our client that avoided a Life sentence and required him to serve only 12 years.