The role of statutes of limitations in criminal defense strategy
A statute of limitation is a law that establishes how long prosecutors have to charge an individual with a crime. For example, in Louisiana many misdemeanors have statutes of limitations that run for two years. That means that if a prosecutor cannot make a case against a person in the two years following the commission of an alleged crime then its ability to do so at a later date is effectively eliminated.
Unlike misdemeanors that have relatively short statutes of limitations, felonies may have significantly longer periods during which prosecutors may pursue claims against the individuals they suspect of committing crimes. Some felonies such as murder do not have statutes of limitations: the state considers those offenses so serious that they may be indefinitely pursued by prosecutors.
It is important for a person charged with a crime to check that the statute of limitation applicable to the crime the individual is accused of committing has not run. The failure of a prosecutor to file timely charges against a party may result in the individual having the charges dropped and his legal matter resolved in his favor.
There are certain instances and actions that may stop a statute of limitation from running out even if the noted period of years has passed. For example, when a party intentionally flees or hides from authorities to wait out the applicable statute of limitation then a prosecutor may still have the power to pursue charges after the individual is located, regardless of whether the full limitation period had elapsed.
Criminal charges in the state of Louisiana must be filed within the statutes of limitations established in the state’s criminal code. Attorneys who practice criminal defense law can provide their clients with guidance regarding how to identify the statutes of limitations that apply to their criminal charges.