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Statute of Limitations and Criminal Prosecution


If a prosecutor determines that charges should be filed against a suspect, there are certain rules that must be adhered to.  Time limits on filing charges, referred to as the statute of limitations, have been established for a number of reasons.  The time limits vary for different charges, but they have been established for some very good reasons.  In the event you have been charged with criminal activity, having a knowledgeable, experienced criminal attorney is critical.

Why Set Time Limits? 

There are several important reasons for the statute of limitations which include:

  • To ensure evidence remains viable;
  • To avoid unnecessary delay in the administration of justice;
  • To ensure witnesses have clear recollection of events; and
  • To avoid having defendants wait indefinitely to fight potential charges.


Certain crimes are not subject to statute of limitations. Murder can be charged decades after the crime occurs.  The same is true for any felony that leads to the death of an individual. or felonies that may result in a life sentence.  Perjury that occurs in proceedings related to capital felonies also has no statute of limitations. Other crimes having varying time limits for prosecution based on the seriousness of the alleged crime (Florida Statute 775.15).

  • Generally, first degree felonies have a four-year statute of limitations.
  • Generally, lesser felonies, such as second and third-degree felonies, have a 3-year statute of limitations. Charges such as aggravated assault, battery on a law enforcement officer, and grand theft fall into this category.
  • First degree misdemeanors have a 2-year statute of limitations, while second degree misdemeanors have a one-year statute of limitations. Charges such as reckless driving, criminal mischief, prostitution, and trespassing are all misdemeanors.
  • For certain types of criminal acts, the statute of limitations can be expanded. For instance, felonies that result in personal injury due to destructive force, such as from an explosive device or from the use of poisonous gas, have a ten-year statute of limitations.

Hold on Statute of Limitations 

If a defendant leaves the state, or cannot be located, the statute of limitations can sometimes be put on hold giving officials time to locate the individual and charge them.

Establishing the Suspect’s Identity 

In some situations, law enforcement may not be able to identify a suspect for years after a crime has been committed.  An individual may be charged any time after he or she has been identified by DNA or other evidence in certain crimes, including kidnapping, sexual battery, carjacking, and aggravated child abuse.

Defending Against Charges 

When you are charged with a crime, an experienced defense attorney is necessary to provide an  effective defense.  Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer Deric Zacca has extensive experience defending criminal cases in both State and Federal Court. Schedule a confidential consultation in Fort Lauderdale today.