A statute of limitations is a law that forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago. The main purpose of these laws is to ensure that convictions are based upon evidence (physical or eyewitness) that has not deteriorated with time. After the time period has run, the crime can no longer be prosecuted, meaning that the accused person is essentially free.
Each states establishes its own statutes of limitations, often with different time limits for distinct types of crime.
Generally speaking, the prosecutor’s “clock” ticks only if the criminal suspect remains in the state. If the individual flees or goes into hiding, the clock will pause (in legal jargon “toll”) and will resume running when and if the suspected person reenters the state. This is to prevent criminals from avoiding the consequences of their crimes by simply running, hiding and waiting out the authorities. Other circumstances may justify tolling, too, such as concealment of the wrongdoing.
Not all crimes are governed by statutes of limitations. Murder, for example, has none, meaning that a murderer can be brought to justice even many decades later. Some states also have no time limits for certain other types of crime, such as sex offenses or terrorism charges. Colorado has no statute of limitations on treason. California has none on embezzlement of public funds.
Some states classify their crimes in categories for these purposes. In Indiana, for example, Level 3 felonies have a five-year statute of limitations. This makes it necessary to look up which crimes are considered Level 3.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.