Definition of the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to a specific amount of time that the law will allow people to bring legal proceedings. In criminal law, the prosecution must bring charges against a person within the time period proscribed by the statute of limitations. For many crimes, the time period for the statute of limitations will begin once the police should discover the crime has been committed. For other crimes, the statute of limitations will run from the time that it is committed. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to limit the amount of time that the government may pursue criminal charges against a person.
Application of the Statute of Limitations
Many crimes such as murder do not have a statute of limitations. This means that the government may initiate charges against a person at any time in the future. For example, prosecutors may legally bring a murder charge against someone fifty years after the crime has been committed and this will not affect the statute of limitations.
For crimes that do have a statute of limitations, if a charge is initiated after the statute of limitations has ended, the prosecutors will be forced to dismiss that charge. The motion to dismiss will usually be first made by the defendant’s defense attorney.
The statute of limitations may be tolled, or suspended from running, for different reasons. This means that the actual time period may extend longer than stated in the statute. Reasons for tolling the statute of limitations will vary. In Texas, one reason that will toll the statute of limitations will be the continued absence of the defendant from the state.
Specific Time Periods Applicable to Texas
Different states will have different applicable time periods for each crime. For Texas, the following time periods will apply:
- Misdemeanors – 2 years
- Murder and manslaughter – none
- Arson – 7 years
- Robbery and burglary – 5 years
- Indecency with a child – 10 years
- Misapplication of fiduciary property – 7 years
- Felonies not specifically listed by statute – 3 years
State laws consistently change. Every year, the legislature will make additions to the criminal law. The period of statute of limitations will change for different crimes as well as the reasons to toll the time period.
To further discuss the details of a specific case, contact Mario Madrid at (713) 877-9400 for a free consultation.