Statute of Limitations

Statutes of Limitations Must Be Asserted By Criminal Defense Attorney

All criminal lawyers must be knowledgeable on limitations on prosecution in order to protect the rights and liberty of their clients. Statutes of limitations specify the length of time permitted between the commission of a crime and the initiation of prosecution. At common law there were no time  limitations, thus statutes of limitations are legislative creations that vary according to the will of the jurisdiction’s legislative body.  Generally, the more serious the crime the longer the statute of limitations. Major felonies like murder usually have no limitations on the time within which the prosecution may bring charges. With less serious offenses, the legislature may favor short statutes of limitations in order to help ensure that prosecutions will be based upon reasonably fresh evidence. With the sage of time, memories fade, witnesses die or leave the area, and physical evidence becomes more difficult to obtain, identify, or preserve. In short, the possibility eroneous conviction is minimized when prosecution is prompt.


Broward County criminal lawyers are cautioned that as the statutes of limitations can be waived,  the State Attorneys Office may legally file charges falling outside of statutory dates. Criminal defense law firms are urged to update their computer systems with limitation of action calendar alert systems.

Statutes of limitations begin running when the crime occurs, however, the time  period may be tolled (cease to run) under certain conditions. Tolling the statute of limitations most commonly occurs while the accused is fleeing from justice or in hiding within or without the state in order to avoid arrest. The statute of limitations ceases to run upon the commencement of the prosecution, which is generally defined as the issuance of an indictment or arrest warrant. A claim that the statute of limitations bars prosecution is one of the issues that must be raised before verdict or it is deemed to be waived. If the defendant successfully establishes that the statute limitations has run, the appropriate remedy is dismissal of the charge.

For more information on this article, or to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our criminal attorneys, contact our Broward County criminal defense office location.