Do Crimes Have Statutes of Limitations?
When people commit crimes, they are not always apprehended immediately. In some cases, months or years may pass before someone is targeted for arrest for a criminal offense. Although there are certain crimes for which someone is indefinitely punishable, others have an expiration date on them after which a person cannot be charged.
Known as a statute of limitations, this is a time period during which a person may still be charged for a crime. After this time, they may no longer face any charges. The reasoning for this rule is a desire to protect innocent parties. For instance, if a person were accused of shoplifting 10 years after the alleged crime occurred, it would be extremely difficult for that individual to put up an effective defense. Not only would the person no longer have evidence relating to the day in question (such as a sales receipt), but it’s also unlikely he or she would even remember the details of the alleged incident.
The statute of limitations for crimes begins at the time the state knew or should have known that the crime was committed. In the interest of fairness, this period would not being right away on a crime that is unlikely to be discovered expeditiously, such as vandalizing remote property.
In Ohio, misdemeanors have a somewhat short statute of limitations of two years. Felonies, however, have a much longer statute of limitations, and some of them do not have one at all. Murder, for example, is a crime for which someone can be prosecuted at any time, even decades after the incident took place. Other felonies’ time limits range from one year (fraud) to upwards of 20 years, including for crimes like rape, kidnapping, arson and other violent offenses.
For more information on statute of limitations and any other issue related to a criminal charge in Ohio, speak with a knowledgeable Cuyahoga County defense lawyer at the Law Office of Gregory S. Robey.