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Posted on June 19, 2013 by Law Office of Brett A Podolsky
In order to ensure that people do not have to worry about past crimes haunting them indefinitely, there are statutes of limitations on nearly every offense. The amount of time a prosecutor has to file formal charges against a suspect is called the statute of limitations. This time normally begins running when a crime is committed, but can sometimes start at the time when the crime should have been discovered.
Felony vs. Misdemeanors
The length of time varies between felony crimes and misdemeanor crimes. The statute of limitations is usually longer for more serious crimes than it is for relatively minor offenses. In Texas, the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor is two years, but it can be up to 10 years for some felonies. Some common crimes and their corresponding statute of limitations include:
- Theft crimes involving public officials: 10 years
- Forgery: 10 years
- Arson crimes: Seven years
- Miscellaneous felonies: Three years
Some crimes are considered especially heinous, and these have no statute of limitations at all on them. The idea behind this is to ensure guilty parties are punished, even if the crime is not discovered for several years later. In Texas, crimes that do not have a statute of limitations are:
Tolling the Statute
The clock on the statute of limitations can sometimes stop ticking under special circumstances. This can happen when a wanted person eludes law enforcement for an extended period of time or when the identity of a perpetrator is unknown. Tolling the statute of limitations raises the issue of whether or not an individual was actually charged outside the statute of limitations, and it is an important issue for a criminal defense lawyer to raise.
The statute of limitations can be used to get some charges dropped against a defendant. For example, those facing multiple counts of burglary might effectively argue that the statute of limitations has expired on some of them. This would result in fewer charges being brought against an individual and ultimately a lesser sentence.
Individuals who have previously committed criminal offenses often wonder if the statute of limitations on their crimes have expired. This can be tricky to know since so many criminal offenses exist, and each one has its own statute of limitations. In addition, the tolling of a statute of limitations further complicates matters.
To find out if the statute of limitations has run out for the crime you are charged with, schedule a confidential legal consultation with Brett Podolsky at 713-227-0087.