Statute of Limitations
Quite often, we receive calls from clients who have criminal cases pending from years in the past. Sometimes those clients attempted to escape the law and have finally decided to face their criminal charges. Often, these clients have had warrants pending for their arrest. Those warrants can prevent one from obtaining a valid license and can hinder employment opportunities when they show up on background checks. More often than you might think, clients did not even realize that they had criminal charges pending. These clients often discover that they have criminal charges when applying for new jobs. It is not all that unusual for criminal charges to be brought against people unknowingly.
These old cases can cause all sorts of issues for defendants. A committed St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer, however, can often take these old cases and find a way to get them thrown out. In fact, the Florida legislature has put some measures in place to ensure that some old cases are taken care of. One of those mechanisms is the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a powerful but limited tool that imposes certain time restrictions on the State of Florida to prosecute defendants within a reasonable amount of time.How the Statute of Limitations Works
Statutes of limitations exist for both civil and criminal cases. The basic idea behind the statutes is that both criminal or civil actions should be brought within a certain period of time in order to protect the interests of the defendant. A defendant cannot reasonably be expected to to mount an effective defense to any sort of case if a case is brought several years after the facts underlying the case happen. However, the statute of limitations is not as simple as it may seem to the untrained eye. The statutes often require intense legal analysis in order to determine whether they apply to your specific case.
At its basic level, the statute of limitations for criminal offenses states that prosecution for felonies punishable by life or death may be commenced at any time. This means that there is no limitation on the time that the State can take to begin a prosecution against a person accused of such a crime. Often times, victims of such crimes can be either dead or seriously injured. And evidence of such crimes can go unfound or unnoticed for years. This is the reason why “cold cases” can often be reopened decades after the crime without any issues.
A prosecution for a first degree felony must be commenced within 4 years of the time of the offense. Prosecution for a second or third degree felony must be commenced within 3 years of the offense. And prosecution for a misdemeanor must be commenced within 1 or 2 years depending on the type of offense. A failure to commence prosecution within the specified time period will result in the prohibition of the filing of any criminal charges. What exactly qualifies as the “commencement of prosecution” is a bit complicated. A skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer can analyze whether your case can benefit from using the statute of limitations.
The statute defines “commencement of prosecution” as an arrest, the filing of an information, or an indictment. If you are arrested for a charge, then the prosecution against you has been “commenced.” Once an indictment or information is served upon you, the prosecution is commenced. The tricky part comes in when an indictment is filed but you are not served with it. In order for the statute of limitations time period to begin running, the State must make a good faith effort to serve the warrant upon you without reasonable delay.Speak to Our Lawyers Today
The experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyers at Hanlon Law can help you determine whether the statute of limitations applies to your case. Don’t lose the opportunity to get your case dismissed if you qualify. Speak to our lawyers today at 727.897.5413.