Both criminal and civil courts throughout the State of Texas employ statutes of limitation. In essence, a statute of limitation provides the deadline by which a party must take legal action or file a lawsuit in a particular type of case.
In Texas criminal matters, the state prosecutor is the individual who files the charges against a person on behalf of the state’s citizens. Therefore, the statute of limitations in a criminal case is the deadline by which the state prosecutor must file these charges against the individual who allegedly committed the underlying crime.
If the state prosecutor brings charges against the individual after the statute of limitations deadline has already expired, the accused person or their attorney may file a motion to dismiss the case, which the court will likely grant.
Statutes of limitations in criminal cases vary significantly, depending on the underlying criminal offense. If a state prosecutor has charged you with committing a crime in the state, it is important that you have skilled legal representation on your side as quickly as possible. Failing to retain a skilled attorney to represent you could significantly jeopardize your legal rights and ultimately lead to an unfavorable outcome in your case.
The experienced Texas criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, can assist you during every stage of your criminal case, from beginning to end. First, we could determine if you are eligible to raise one or more legal defenses in response to your pending criminal charge. One of those defenses may be that the state prosecutor failed to file charges against you in a timely manner.
We could also represent you at all legal proceedings in your criminal case, including your bench or jury trial. Finally, if the opportunity arises, we could help you negotiate a favorable plea deal with the state prosecutor who’s handling your case. We will do everything possible to protect your constitutional and other legal rights while your criminal case is pending and help you secure the best possible outcome in your case.
For a free case evaluation and legal consultation with a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney, please contact our office directly for more information.
The statute of limitations applicable to Texas criminal cases serves various purposes. First, it helps to ensure the integrity of the evidence that the parties present at trial, including all of the following:
In most cases, the statute of limitations time clock starts to run on the date when the alleged crime occurred. In some instances, however, it may be extremely difficult for the state prosecutor to ascertain exactly when the offense happened. At other times, a crime victim may not come forward until years after the alleged offense, such as in cases that involve the sexual abuse of a minor by an adult. In these types of situations, the statute of limitations might be “tolled.” In other words, the statutory time clock will not start running until some later date, depending upon the circumstances.
In some situations, the rules surrounding the statute of limitations for an offense may be difficult to ascertain. Moreover, if an individual is facing more than one criminal charge in their case, two or more statutory time deadlines might be applicable. If you are currently pending one or more criminal charges and you are unsure about whether the statutory time deadline has passed, it is important that you seek out experienced legal counsel in your case immediately.
The skilled Texas criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, could help you determine if you are eligible to raise the statute of limitations as a legal defense to your pending criminal charge(s) and, if so, could help you pursue a complete dismissal of your case.
In general, Texas classifies criminal offenses into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are more serious offenses, and offenders may receive harsher criminal penalties upon conviction.
In addition, felony and misdemeanor crimes have different statutes of limitation. Most misdemeanors in Texas have a two-year statute of limitations, while most felonies have a maximum statute of limitations lasting three years. A state prosecutor may also present a felony indictment within these statutory time limits; however, they may not present a felony indictment afterward.
The majority of felony offenses in Texas have a statute of limitations that lasts for three years unless the criminal statute states something different. In some cases, however, the seriousness of the underlying criminal offense enhances the applicable statute of limitations time frame. The following criminal offenses have a statute of limitations that lasts for five years, starting on the date when the accused individual allegedly committed the offense:
Other criminal offenses in Texas have a statute of limitations that lasts for seven years. Some of those offenses include the following:
Several felony crimes in Texas have a ten-year statute of limitations, meaning that a state prosecutor has up to ten years to bring criminal charges against an accused individual for the underlying offense. Those crimes include:
Other crimes in Texas have a ten-year statute of limitations that begins to run on the alleged victim’s eighteenth birthday. Therefore, if the underlying offense occurs before the alleged victim reaches 18, a state prosecutor has ten years from the victim’s eighteenth birthday to file legal charges against the accused individual. Those offenses include all of the following:
Other felony offenses in Texas have a statute of limitations that lasts for 20 years. Moreover, for certain of these offenses, the 20-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim’s birthday, assuming the victim was under 17 years of age when the alleged offense occurred. Some criminal offenses that have a 20-year statute of limitations in Texas include:
Certain criminal offenses in Texas are so serious that the state does not impose a statute of limitations deadline. Therefore, depending upon the circumstances, a state prosecutor might decide to file charges 10 or 20 years after the accused individual allegedly committed the offense. However, the longer a prosecutor waits to file criminal charges, the harder it will likely be for them to successfully prove the legal elements of their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Crimes in Texas that do not have a statute of limitations include:
In any Texas criminal case, the handling state prosecutor has a duty to bring the appropriate criminal charge(s) within the applicable statute of limitations deadline for the underlying offense(s). After they bring criminal charges, they have the sole legal burden of proof in the case. However, the accused individual – or the criminal defendant – does not need to prove anything in the case or even testify at their criminal court trial. A defendant does not need to take the witness stand in court because they have a legal and constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Although a state prosecutor does not have to prove their case 100 percent, to obtain a conviction against the defendant, the prosecutor must prove each legal element of the underlying charge “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If the prosecutor fails to prove even one legal element of a particular criminal charge, that charge may be subject to a complete dismissal at trial.
Although the defendant in a criminal case does not need to satisfy any legal burden or prove anything, they may be able to raise one or more legal defenses in response to a pending criminal charge. A legal defense may work to negate the evidence that the prosecutor presents in the case, preventing them from fully satisfying their legal burden beyond a reasonable doubt. Other defenses, like a statute of limitations defense, go to a procedural issue. If the court finds that a state prosecutor failed to bring criminal charges against you within the applicable timeframe, your entire case may be subject to a complete dismissal.
If a state prosecutor filed criminal charges against you after the statute of limitations already ran in your case, you may be eligible to raise that fact as a legal defense at trial. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of David D. White, PLLC, will be able to determine if you may raise the statute of limitations as a legal defense in your case, as well as your chances of success in court. If you are eligible to raise this defense, we can bring it up in court and aggressively advocate for your legal interests in pursuit of a complete dismissal of your pending criminal charge.
For a free case evaluation and legal consultation with a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney, please call us at 512-369-3737 or contact us online to learn more.