Some crimes cannot be prosecuted after a specific period of time. In Texas, there is a three year statute of limitation on most felonies and a two year statute of limitations on misdemeanors. After the statute has expired the state can no longer bring charges.
However, there are some caveats you should be aware of, especially if you are counting on the statute of limitations to save you from prosecution.
Some crimes have longer statutes of limitations.
While the felony/misdemeanor standards are good rules of thumb, there are certain crimes that have different statutes of limitations.
- Criminally negligent homicide has a 5 year statute.
- Felony sexual assaults not covered by the exceptions which create no statutes of limitations have a ten year statute.
- Compelling the prostitution of an adult or trafficking adult persons carries a ten year statute.
- Theft by fiduciaries, that is, someone who has a fiduciary responsibility to the person they’re stealing from, has a 10 year statute. Misapplication of fiduciary property has a 7 year limit.
- Theft of government property by a public servant has a ten year statute.
- Felony tax code violations have a 7 year limit.
- Credit or debit card abuse has a seven year limit.
- Identity theft carries a seven year limit, as does health care fraud.
- General insurance fraud carries a 5 year limit whereas health care fraud carries a 7 year limit.
- Other felony theft or robbery carries a 5 year limit.
- Aggravated kidnapping with the intent to sexually assault has a 20 year limit that starts not from the date of the crime, but from the date of the victim’s 18th birthday if the victim was underage.
- Trafficking for forced labor or services that are not sexual in nature has a 10 year statute that starts from the date of the victim’s 18th birthday if the victim was under age.
- Injury to a child has a statute that is 10 years from the victim’s 18th birthday.
Some crimes have no statute of limitations.
There is absolutely no time limit on murder or manslaughter, or on hit and run involving a death. It could take Texas law enforcement twenty years to solve that crime and you could still be arrested, tried, and imprisoned for it.
There also is no time limit on aggravated sexual assault of a child younger than 17, the continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14, or in sexual assault cases wherein probable cause exists to believe the defendant has committed similar sex offenses against five or more victims. There’s also no time limit for sex trafficking a child, continuous trafficking of persons, or compelling the prostitution of a child.
There are circumstances that allow the government to ask for more time.
Certain circumstances give the prosecutor more time. Evading arrest or leaving the state could mean that the charges are “tolled”. It’s just as if someone reached out to stop the play clock in chess; the time is frozen and doesn’t start up again until an event happens which allows the clock to be “turned back on.”
In many cases it is unwise to rely on the statute of limitations alone if you know you may be charged with a crime in Texas. It is better to reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer to get help. If the statute can be used in your defense we’ll use it; if not we’ll look to other options.
If you or a loved one is in trouble, reach out to our office to get help today.
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