The state can’t file charges against a person whenever it wants. In addition to being able to demonstrate probable cause that someone committed a crime, for instance, prosecutors must also abide by specific time limits when filing formal charges. When this deadline, also known as a statute of limitations, has passed, then the accused cannot be prosecuted for that particular crime. The lengths of these deadlines do differ, usually based on the type of crime in question, so if you were arrested for or accused of committing a crime in Texas, you should speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer who can ensure that the state doesn’t violate your legal rights by filing charges after the passage of the statute of limitations in your case.
When Does the Statute of Limitations Start?
The statute of limitations usually starts when the crime was allegedly committed. This rule does not, however, always apply. When an alleged victim of a crime was under the age of 17 years old, for instance, the deadline for filing charges against the person accused of committing the offense will often be extended. In other cases, the time limit will start not when the crime occurred, but when it should have been discovered.
Felony Statute of Limitations
The length of the statute of limitations in a person’s case depends partly on the severity and type of the offense with which he or she is being charged. Most felony crimes, for instance, have a three year statute of limitations. There are also, however, some offenses that are considered to be so serious that they don’t have a statute of limitations, meaning that charges can be filed at any time, regardless of how much time has passed. This list includes:
- Sexual assault;
- Sexual abuse of a child;
- Human trafficking; and
- Compelling prostitution of a minor.
Other less severe felonies, on the other hand, have a ten year statute of limitations, including:
- Theft of an estate by an executor, guardian, or trustee;
- Theft of government property by an employee;
- Elder abuse; and
Less serious felony offenses, many of which are white collar crimes, come instead with a seven year statute of limitations. This includes:
- Money laundering;
- Medicaid fraud;
- Credit card abuse;
- Bank fraud; and
- Financial exploitation of a child, a disabled individual, or an elderly person.
Five years is the next shortest statute of limitations for a felony offense and applies in cases that involve crimes like theft, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, and insurance fraud.
Misdemeanor Statute of Limitations
Unlike with felony offenses, the statute of limitations for misdemeanors isn’t dependent on the severity of the offense, or how those crimes are classified. Instead, all misdemeanor crimes in Texas are governed by a two year statute of limitations. This includes more serious misdemeanors like assault, as well as non-violent offenses, such as vandalism and disorderly conduct.
Contact Our Houston Criminal Defense Legal Team
If you have been charged with a crime and are looking for representation, please call The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100 today.