A statute of limitations is a window of time that a person is allowed to take legal action on a matter. Essentially, it’s a time limit, and it applies in both civil and criminal cases. For example, if someone is injured on the job, they typically have 30 days to file a claim with their employer. When it comes to criminal cases, however, the statute of limitations governs how quickly a prosecutor must file formal charges against a suspect.
There are a few reasons why crimes have a statute of limitations. One is that it encourages swift action, making sure crimes don’t float in legal limbo. Another is that acting on a crime in a timely manner helps preserve evidence, like witness memories, that could otherwise change with the passage of time.
But does every crime have a statute of limitations (SOL)?
Statutes of Limitations
- There is no SOL on murder, manslaughter, certain sexual assaults, hit and run resulting in a fatality and some human trafficking offenses
- Thefts involving fiduciaries or officials, forgery, injury to an elderly or disabled person, arson and compelling prostitution have an SOL of ten years.
- Misapplication of fiduciary property or property of a financial institution, money laundering, some tax crimes, fraud, identity, theft and bigamy carry an SOL of seven years.
- Other theft, burglary and robbery offenses, insurance fraud and abandoning or endangering a child carry an SOL of five years.
- All other felonies not specifically referred to in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 12.01, et. seq. carry an SOL of three years.
- Misdemeanor crimes have an SOL of two years from the date the crime is committed.
If the statute of limitations has expired before you are charged with a crime, you have an affirmative defense against those charges.