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For Whom the Statute (of Limitation) Tolls

Those who have filed a civil suit should be familiar with the term “statute of limitations.” Each state has a “statute of limitations” that describes the time limits within which certain cases must be filed. A case that is filed even one day after the statute of limitations has run is untimely and will likely be dismissed by the court. Statutes of limitations were originally created as a means of encouraging lawsuits to be timely filed so that disputes could be quickly resolved and individuals could go on with their lives without worrying about an unresolved lawsuit from decades ago.

Statutes of Limitations in Criminal Cases

In most criminal cases there is a statute of limitations as well (note that a statute of limitations is not the same as a criminal defendant’s “speedy trial” rights: the statute of limitations indicates whether the prosecutor can file a particular criminal case whereas “speedy trial” rights refers to how quickly the defendant must be brought to trial once a case is filed).

In Florida, the statutes of limitations applicable in a criminal case depends on the severity of the crime:

  • Prosecutions of misdemeanors of the second degree or noncriminal violations must be commenced within 1 year of the date of offense;
  • Prosecutions of misdemeanors of the first degree must be commenced within 2 years of the date of offense;
  • Prosecutions for felonies other than first degree felonies, capital felonies, life felonies, and felonies that resulted in a death must be commenced within 3 years of the date of offense;
  • Prosecutions for felonies of the first degree must be commenced within 4 years of the date of offense; and
  • Prosecutions for capital felonies, life felonies, and felonies in which a death occurred may be commenced at any time. (This allowed for the recent conviction of a man for a 1986 murder – because these prosecutions could be commenced at any time, a prosecution that concluded nearly 30 years after a murder occurred was not unlawful).

How is the Time Calculated?

The statute begins running once the criminal act occurred and stops when a prosecution is commenced. If you were arrested or issued a summons at the time of the act, the prosecution must merely file an information or indictment. If you were not previously arrested or served with a summons, the prosecution is commenced when you are served with a summons or when a diligent attempt has been made to serve you but the attempt has been unsuccessful.

If you are facing prosecution for a crime that is alleged to have occurred several years ago, contact South Florida criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner right away. The statute of limitations may have run and the government may be unable to prosecute you for the alleged crime. Determining whether this applies in your case requires a careful review of the charges you are facing as well as the time at which you were served with a summons or arrested. Contact his office today by calling (305) 670-9919 and setting up a free consultation to discuss your case.

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