A statute of limitations is a legal restriction on how long a person or entity like a government may wait before taking legal action on a matter. Although statues of limitations are often discussed in relation to civil lawsuits, they are also pertinent to the criminal law. In Texas, not all crimes are subject to a statute of limitations.
The criminal statute of limitations establishes how soon after an incident a prosecutor must file formal charges. The incident in question may be an arrest.
The statute of limitations is meant to ensure criminal charges are not hanging over a defendant’s head for years, meaning he or she cannot get on with their life. It is also meant to ensure cases are handled efficiently.
The longer a criminal case drags on, the more evidence will degrade and witness recollections will become blurred. However, in Texas as in other states, there is no statute of limitations for serious crimes like murders and certain sexual assaults.
This means a defendant can be charged with a cold case murder 50 or 60 years after it was committed.
The relevant time limits are set out in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Statute of Limitations for Certain Crimes in Texas
Here are the relevant times before a case can no longer be pursued:
Typically, the statute of limitations is extended if the victim is under the age of 17 when the crime is committed.
In the case of misdemeanor offenses in Texas, the statute of limitations runs two years from the date when the crime was committed. The statute is not applicable when the accused is out of the state of Texas.
To find out more about these complex areas contact our experienced Fort Worth criminal defense legal team.