Statutes of Limitations and Criminal Offenses

No one likes to be a victim of a crime. This is why there is much emphasis on reducing repeat offenses by increasing the penalties for criminal behavior. In many cases, stricter criminal penalties have led to the reduction of instances of crime. However, is also important to point out that our judicial system is designed to be fair. That means that a certain laws are in effect that protect the rights of the accused. This is an important aspect of our legal system since it is one of the few systems that revolve around the notion of innocent until proven guilty. This means our system must balance the law and order and with a sense of fairness. This is most evident in the specific statutes of limitations surrounding criminal cases.

When it comes to criminal cases, prosecution is subject to statutes of limitations when applicable. That means that there are certain deadlines in effect when it comes to being able to prosecute someone for a crime. The specific timeframe of the various statutes of limitation will be contingent on the severity of the crimes. So, let's examine the specific statute of limitations that correspond to felonies and misdemeanors in the state of Pennsylvania. Please note: different states will have their own specific statute of limitations as does cases prosecuted on the federal level. However, the specific statute of limitations present within Pennsylvania is as follows:

Crimes such as murder in the first, second, or third degree; manslaughter; vehicular homicide; felonies that occur in conjunction with first or second degree murder; or any conspiracy to commit murder have NO statute of limitation. That means a murder committed in 1950 can be prosecuted in the year 2008.

Serious sex crimes such as rape carry a statute of limitations of twelve years. When a sexual offense is committed against a minor, however, the statute of limitations does not start until in the minor reaches the age of eighteen.

Major felonies (aggravated assault, armed robbery, auto theft, etc) as well as conspiracy to commit a major felony or soliciting someone to commit a major felony carries a statute of limitations of five years. Other lesser felonies such as cruelty to animals, breaking and entering, etc carry a statute of limitations of two years. Crimes involving fraud or breach of fiduciary duty are subject to three year statute of limitations. Instance of official misconduct carry a weighty statute of limitations of eight years.

Misdemeanors carry a two year statute of limitations with the exception of summary offenses which are subject to a mere thirty days.

Exceptions. There are a few exceptions that can alter the above defined statutes. When a suspect is not in the state of Pennsylvania; hold no known residence or place of employment inside the state; or are already being prosecuted for the same crime, the clock on the statute of limitations ceases to run.