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Statute of Limitations

Criminal Actions

A majority of states have a statute of limitations for all crimes except murder. Once the statute has expired, the court lacks jurisdiction to try or punish a defendant.

Criminal statutes of limitations apply to different crimes on the basis of their general classification as either felonies or misdemeanors. Generally, the time limit starts to run on the date the offense was committed, not from the time the crime was discovered or the accused was identified. The running of the statute may be suspended for any period the accused is absent from the state or, in certain states, while any other indictment for the same crime is pending. This suspension occurs so that the state will be able to obtain a new indictment in the event the first one is declared invalid.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Special power to Strategic Lawsuits against Public ParticipationStatute of Limitations - Criminal Actions, Civil Actions, Recovered Memory: Stopping The Clock, Waiving The Defense, Tolling The Statute