Indiana Criminal Statute of Limitations
The Indiana criminal statute of limitations bars prosecutors from pursuing a criminal case after the specified period of time has passed. However, the law provides numerous exceptions. If you have been charged with an offense, it is imperative that you contact a reputable Indiana criminal lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether the prosecution is within the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations for criminal offenses in Indiana ranges from two years to a lifetime, depending on the classification of the offense. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Stein Law can protect your rights and ensure you are not prosecuted for a crime after the statute of limitations has expired.
What is a statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations is the time limit by which a prosecutor may initiate charges against you for a criminal offense. In most cases, the time begins to accrue on the date the offense allegedly occurred. A case is initiated when any of the following have occurred:
- Charges are filed in a court of law
- A valid arrest warrant is issued
- An arrest is made without a warrant by a law enforcement officer with the authority to do so
The statute of limitations governs when the case must be commenced, not when it must be disposed of. As long as the prosecution initiates the case before the statute of limitations expires, it may continue the case for as long as it takes to resolve, even if the statute of limitations expires while the case is in process.
However, if a prosecutor fails to file charges before the statute of limitations expires, the state is forever barred from filing charges except when statutory exceptions apply.
How long after a crime can you be charged in Indiana?
The length of time a prosecutor has to file charges is determined by the category of the crime for which you are charged. The period of limitation is generally shorter for less serious offenses and progressively longer as the seriousness of the offense increases.
Although misdemeanor offenses in Indiana may be categorized as Class A, B, or C, all carry a two-year statute of limitations. A misdemeanor arrest warrant expires 180 days after it has been issued.
The statutes of limitations for felonies vary based on the seriousness of the offense. The most serious felonies do not have statutes of limitations, which means a prosecutor can initiate a case at any time. Felony arrest warrants do not expire.
The statute of limitations for low-level felonies expires after five years. This applies to felonies classified as Level 3, 4, 5, or 6 and includes such offenses as the following:
Felonies classified as Level 1 or 2 do not carry a statute of limitations, which means prosecution for these offenses can be commenced at any time. This includes such offenses as the following:
- Burglary committed with a deadly weapon or that causes serious bodily
harm in a dwelling
- Drug offenses involving large quantities or that result in death
- Attempted murder or conspiracy
- Rape with aggravating factors
The crime of murder carries its own classification. Like Level 1 and 2 felonies, murder carries no statute of limitations.
Sexual Offenses Against Children
A prosecutor may initiate a case for the following sexual offenses against children until the victim’s 31st birthday:
- Child molestation
- Vicarious sexual gratification
- Solicitation of a child
- Child seduction
- Sexual misconduct with a minor
All other sexual offenses against children that are not Level 1 or 2 felonies carry a statute of limitations of 10 years or four years after the victim ceases to be the dependent of the accused, whichever occurs later.
Sexual Offenses Against Adults
The statute of limitations for rape of an adult is generally five years after the date the offender is identified through DNA, a recording, or a confession, unless it is a Level 1 or 2 felony, in which case there is no statute of limitations.
Exceptions to the Statutes of Limitations
The law provides numerous exceptions to the statute of limitations for the benefit of the prosecution.
The Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
The tolling of a statute of limitations means the clock is temporarily paused. This provides prosecutors with extra time to initiate a case. The statute of limitations may be tolled under the following circumstances:
- The accused has moved out of state and cannot be located.
- The accused conceals evidence so it is undiscoverable by the prosecution.
- The accused holds public office.
The Discovery Rule
If a prosecuting authority discovers DNA evidence or a recording that implicates a suspect in a Level 3, 4, or 5 felony after the statute of limitations has expired, the clock on the statute of limitations is reset, and the prosecutor may initiate a case within one year of such discovery. In cases involving certain sexual offenses, the prosecutor has five years from the date of discovery to commence the prosecution.
Confession to the Offense
If a suspect confesses to a crime after the statute of limitations has expired, the clock is reset, and the prosecution has one year to prosecute for most felonies and five years for sexual felonies that are not Level 1 or 2 felonies.
If a defendant pleads guilty, the prosecution is considered timely even if the statute of limitations has expired and the defendant could use the statute of limitations as a defense.
If a case is dismissed because of a technicality, the prosecutor may reinitiate the case as long as it is accomplished within 90 days, regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired.
How can an Indiana criminal justice attorney help?
The exceptions to the statutes of limitations strongly favor the prosecution. This is but one example of how the deck is stacked against unrepresented defendants in the Indiana criminal justice system.
The Indiana criminal defense lawyers at Stein Law can do the following for accused individuals with regard to the statute of limitations:
- Obtain a reduced charge, resulting in a shorter statute of limitations
- Ensure exceptions are not unfairly applied
- Prevent clients from making mistakes that could trigger an unfavorable exception
The statute of limitations is meant to protect you from accusations of alleged crimes in the distant past, but if you are being accused of a crime, you are never safe. Your own words can be used to open a new window of opportunity for the prosecution long after the statute of limitations has expired.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect your interests. Contact the experienced criminal defense team at Stein Law to get started.