Our country’s legal system carefully outlines how crimes should be handled, including statute of limitations. The statute of limitation for a crime forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specific number of years ago.
Statute of limitations was first enforced to ensure convictions occurred with evidence that hadn’t deteriorated with time, like eyewitnesses who gradually forgot details or physical items that were no longer reliable. After the period of the statute has expired, the person who committed the crime can no longer be charged.
However, there are certain restrictions and specifications that vary state by state. Most places require the criminal to remain in the state, gainfully employed and visible to the public eye. On the other hand, if the alleged criminal was on the run, living out of the state in which the crime was committed, or in hiding, that time does not count toward the statute.
The most serious crimes are not governed by a statute of limitations and are available for prosecution even after decades have passed. These crimes include murder, kidnapping, and arson in most states.
Claims Involving Minors
When a minor is a victim of a crime, it’s never taken lightly. Most states do not begin the statute of limitations timeline until the minor turns 18. For example, if a 9-year-old boy is injured by a negligent driver, and the state has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, the statute won’t expire until the boy is 20, two years after his 18th birthday.
Discovery of Harm
The discovery of harm rule evolved from medical malpractice claims in which a surgeon’s mistake may not have been discovered for months or years after the date of the surgery. As long as the delay in discovery can be proven under reasonable circumstances—like a temporary bandage left in the abdomen of the patient and not discovered until a future operation—then the statute of limitations does not begin until the date of discovery.
If the law of statute of limitations matters in your case, your attorney will inform you of your state’s exact rules and procedures so you can ensure your case occurs in a timely fashion.