Criminal offenses can only be charged in a certain period of time in the state of Texas. This is what is commonly referred to as the Texas statute of limitations. Depending upon the severity of the type of criminal offense alleged, the Texas statute of limitations can run from two years to an indefinite period. 

Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Texas

The reason a statute of limitations exists is to protect the rights of the accused in a criminal proceeding. The longer time goes on, the less advantageous it is to the defendant. Physical evidence, witness statements, and memories are all considered to lose their accuracy with delays in time. 

To preserve the American right of a fair trial, a statute of limitations must exist because citizens cannot be held under the threat of government prosecution forever except in fairly few limited instances.

Criminal Statute of Limitations 

There are different periods of time given for the statute of limitations depending on whether the crime is a felony or misdemeanor as well as the kind of crime in question.

Felonies

The most serious types of felony crimes do not carry any prosecution time limit. Crimes including murder, manslaughter, child prostitution, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and a few others. A felony, by definition, is a serious matter, but some are more serious than others.

A ten-year statute of limitations applies for the state to allege the following crimes (and select others) have been committed: forgery, arson, prostitution, money laundering, and fraud. 

At five years, third-degree felonies have the least amount of time to be charged, and these offenses include but are not limited to burglary, endangerment of a child, and certain drug possession offenses.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors have the shortest period of time in the Texas statute of limitations. The state gives two years from the date of the offense to charge someone, otherwise they are barred from being prosecuted under the statute of limitations. This includes all types of class A and class B misdemeanors, including drug possession cases, DWI first and second offenses, assault family violence, assault, and theft cases for amounts under $1,500.

When Does the Statute of Limitations Not Run?

There are multiple instances in which the statute of limitations is “paused” or does not run. 

Examples of why the statute of limitations will not continue to run are the defendant voluntarily absconding from the jurisdiction or an emergency order from the government such as the current pandemic of COVID-19. A continuing or ongoing conspiracy also allows the statute of limitations to be considered not running

Hire an Expert Texas Criminal Defense Attorney

Remember, the purpose of the Texas statute of limitations is to protect the rights of the accused in criminal proceedings. 

There are often periods of time when your Austin criminal defense attorney can work with the state to resolve a case by allowing the statute of limitations to expire and prevent charges at other times. The complications and fears that can come from being charged with a criminal offense are serious. Make sure you reach out to someone who is an expert in this area and who can explain your rights to you.

James Gill has extensive knowledge regarding the statutes of limitations for criminal charges in Texas. Call today to schedule a consultation at 512-448-4560. The Law Offices of James Gill, PLLC serves all of Austin, Westlake, Kyle, Buda, San Marcos, and the surrounding TX communities.

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