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What is the Statute of Limitations?

With any case brought before a civil or criminal court, the question of whether the case has been filed in a timely manner must always be asked and answered.  Florida’s statute of limitations provides the time periods within which a particular type of case must be filed.  Think of the statute of limitations as a clock and when the clock runs out, so does the ability to file a court case.  In the criminal justice system, the statute of limitations is based on the classification of the crime – in general, the more serious the crime, the longer the statute of limitations.  Special circumstances can also toll or stop the clock of the statute of limitations.  The special circumstances that can toll the statute of limitations range from the severity of the crime to the age of the victim.   Additionally, the statute of limitations is tolled when the defendant voluntarily flees the prosecuting jurisdiction for the purpose of avoiding criminal prosecution.

Miami Child Molester Pleads Guilty Nearly Four Decades After the Crime

A Miami man who recently pled guilty to a series of sex crimes committed against boys under the age of 12 would likely have fallen under several of the special circumstances that affect the tolling of the statute of limitations in Florida. According to reports, the defendant, Jeffrey Sams, left the country after committing the crimes and went to Venezuela. Authorities continued working to have him returned to the United States over the years and eventually the defendant was returned to Florida.  He has since admitted to his crimes. Despite the passage of time, the statute of limitations did not prevent his case from being prosecuted due to the nature and circumstances of his crimes.

Special Considerations for Types of Crimes and Ages of Victims

Florida’s statute of limitations for criminal cases is found in Florida Statute Section 775.15.  Florida Statute Section 775.15 sets forth the various time periods within which a criminal case must be prosecuted, and these varying time periods are based on the different classifications of crimes.  This statute also provides the exceptions that operate to toll the statute of limitations when special circumstances are present. One factor that often affects the statute of limitations is the age of the victim and the type of crime that has been committed. For example, with respect to crimes in violation of Florida Statute Section 794.011, if the victim is under the age of 18 and the offense is a first or second degree felony that is reported within 72 hours after commission of the offense, the case can be prosecuted at any time.  This exception to Florida’s statute of limitations most likely applied to the Miami child-molester’s case.

Let Us Help You Today

If you have been accused of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work hard to protect your rights. The office of Deric Zacca, P.A. is the first place you should turn to when facing these types of issues. A variety of issues, including those pertaining to the applicable statute of limitations, need to be considered from the start of your case. Attorney Deric Zacca’s years of experience as both a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor give him a unique and broad perspective of the criminal justice system and, as a result, no factor is overlooked during the case from start to finish. Knowing your rights and responsibilities is an important first step in protecting those rights, and during your initial meeting with Attorney Deric Zacca you will learn everything you need to move forward with your defense. Get the facts – contact the office to schedule your consultation today.