What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations refers to any law that bars claims after a certain period of time passes following a criminal act. The period of time varies depending on the jurisdiction and the crime.
Statutes of limitations are used in both civil and criminal cases and typically start at the date of the injury, or the date it was discovered. Many statutes of limitations are actual legislative statutes, while others may come from judicial common law.
What is the Purpose of a Statute of Limitations?
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to protect would-be defendants from unfair legal prosecution, specifically arising from the fact that after a significant passage of time, relevant evidence may be lost, obscured, or unretrievable, and the recollections of witnesses may not be as clear.
Why is There No Statute of Limitations on Murder?
Murder involves the taking of a person's life. Murder victims will not come back to life and their families have to live with the tragedy forever. Therefore, the one thing that can be offered to these families is justice. If there were a statute of limitations for murder, many families may not be able to see their loved one’s killer face prosecution for their crime.
Additionally, murder is a complicated crime. This is particularly true if the murderer is good at hiding evidence or covering their tracks. Police may need years to gather enough evidence to make an arrest, often having to wait until the suspect makes a mistake. If there was a statute of limitations for murder, perpetrators would essentially be rewarded for being smart.
What Happens When the Statute of Limitations Runs Out?
In most cases, once the statute of limitations on a case “runs out,” the legal claim is no longer valid. The amount of time in which you can file a lawsuit varies depending on the type of legal claim.
Which Other Crimes Have No Statute of Limitations?
In addition to murder, the following crimes do not have a statute of limitations in most states:
- Rape that involves force or violence
- Spousal rape that involves force or violence
- Murder in the first degree
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child (up until the victim turns 40)
- Embezzlement of public money
- What Is The First Amendment?
- What is Misdemeanor Probation?
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