What Is A Statute Of Limitations & How It Works
There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied. We tend to look at this from the victim’s point of view. If it takes ten years to catch and sentence a rapist or thief, the victim has lived in fear all that time. However, the statute of limitations is also there to protect the accused. Over time, memories fade, and records are lost. This is why it is unfair to accuse people of a crime 20 years after the fact. This is why the statute of limitation was developed.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a set time period in which a lawsuit, civil action, or charges must be filed after the date of an incident. For example, Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for suing for damages related to trespassing. Texas has different limitations of time for various crimes.
How Does It Work?
The statute of limitations law sets a time limit for prosecuting a crime. Criminal charges must be filed within that time period, or they cannot be filed at all. The idea is to prevent people from being convicted because all of the related records are lost, such as in the case of fraud, or physical evidence has deteriorated to the point it is useless.
The more serious the crime, the longer the statute of limitation. For example, robbery has a five-year time limit, forgery is seven years, and money laundering is ten. Endangering or abandoning a child has a five-year statute of limitations, while felony offenses against the disabled or elderly are ten years. For lesser felonies, a three-year statute of limitations is in effect. However, there are crimes for which the state of Texas has decided there is no limitation of time.
Crimes That Don’t Have a Statute of Limitations
There are a few felonies for which there is no limitation of time. A classic example is a manslaughter or murder. They may not find evidence regarding the killer for years. This is why someone could be charged 20 years after the murder occurred. This category also includes leaving the scene of an accident which resulted in death, so don’t flee the scene after a car wreck.
Sexual assault under Section 22.001A2 and 22.021A1B don’t have a time limit, either. Texas also altered the statute of limitations to take the biological matter into account. For example, there is a backlog of rape kits that will take years to process. Though they did a DNA analysis of the biological material, they may not find a match for years. The statute of limitations in these cases is essentially suspended.
Texas does not have a limitation of time for offenses against young children. This allows them to grow up and then file charges. Human trafficking has no time limit for the same reason.
The Potential Suspension of the Statute of Limitations
We’ve mentioned offenses for which there is no limitation of time. However, this resource can be suspended, essentially stopping the clock. For example, the time for which an indictment is pending doesn’t affect the statute of limitations. If the suspect flees the state, this resource is automatically suspended. This rule is intended to prevent people from fleeing Texas for a few years hoping to run out the clock.