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What are New Jersey’s criminal statute of limitations rules?

| Jul 25, 2020 | Criminal Defense

Criminal statute of limitations refer to the time in which someone may face charges. Once the statute of limitations expires, then charges cannot be brought. Statute of limitations laws exist to provide fairness to those accused of crimes. Over the years, evidence may become lost, memories prove weakened or the witnesses might pass away. Also, accused individuals have a right to a speedy trial. For example, charging a shoplifter with petty theft 15 years after the incident would not reflect a speedy trial.

The duration for a particular statute of limitations depends on the crime and other factors. Misdemeanors, called “disorderly persons” offenses in New Jersey, have a one-year statute of limitations. Felonies can vary. Most are five years while official misconduct and bribery come with seven years. With sex crimes involving a minor, the statute of limitations is five years after the victim turns 18 or two years after the victim discovers the offense, whichever is later. Some crimes, such as murder, have no statute of limitations.

It’s important to be mindful that the statute of limitations may be suspended or “tolled” under certain circumstances, such as if the accused becomes a fugitive from the law or currently faces prosecution for the same conduct. Tolling might be set aside when DNA links someone to an incident.

When a person is facing an indictment for felony crimes that occurred in the past, their criminal defense attorney may point out that the statute of limitations expired and present the necessary evidence to support the claim. When the statute of limitations is tolled, an attorney might proceed with another defense. The attorney may advise a defendant about a plea bargain or jury trial strategies.

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