The Statute of Limitations in Criminal Defense Cases
Statute of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations in Criminal Defense Cases

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.
Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

When it comes to criminal defense cases in Pennsylvania, there are certain time limitations that plaintiffs must adhere to. These time limits are known as “statutes of limitations” and they vary depending on the type of case and the state in which it is being filed.

Statutes of limitations are not only for personal injury cases but also for criminal defense cases. There are pros and cons to having a time limit as to when someone can file a lawsuit. It compels the plaintiff to seek out damages/charges immediately.

Before, there were cases where plaintiffs could wait until the defendant was no longer financially able to afford a good attorney or was overwhelmed by some other issue. This means the lawsuit wasn’t being conducted in good faith, and the defendant didn’t necessarily have the best chance of success, regardless of whether or not they were guilty.

For more information on how the statute of limitations works for criminal defense cases, contact the attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time after an event that legal proceedings can be initiated. These time limits differ from state to state for each time of law. It acts as a sort of deadline for filing a lawsuit. Once this period has passed, the plaintiff may no longer have the right to sue but the statute of limitations can change depending on specific circumstances.

In criminal defense cases, the plaintiff would be the prosecutor’s office. Statutes of limitations serve as an important protection for defendants, as they prevent potential lawsuits from being brought against them indefinitely.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for criminal charges ranges from 2 years to until death. For example, misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of 2 years, while murder has no time limit.

Factors Affecting the Length of Time

There are various factors that can affect the length of time for the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania. These include:

  1. Type and severity of crime: Different types of crimes have varying lengths for the statute of limitations. Generally, more serious crimes have longer time statutes of limitations or even no limitation at all.
  2. Age of victim: For certain crimes, such as sexual offenses against minors, the statute of limitations may be extended or suspended until the victim reaches a certain age.
  3. Discovery rule: In cases where the crime was not immediately discovered or could not be reasonably discovered within the standard time frame, the statute of limitations may be extended or receive a new starting point.
  4. Fleeing the jurisdiction: If a suspect/future defendant left Pennsylvania before criminal charges could be filed, the time they were absent from the state may not count towards the statute of limitations.

Examples of How it Works

To better understand how this works in Pennsylvania, here are some examples:

  • Consider a person who is charged with assault, which is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. The statute of limitations for this crime is 2 years, meaning charges must be filed within 2 years of the alleged incident.
  • Consider a person who is charged with first-degree murder. This is a felony with no time limit for the statute of limitations. This means that charges can be filed at any point in the future.
  • Consider when a victim of sexual assault was a minor at the time of the crime. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for this offense is extended until the victim turns 50 years old.

Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. for Help

If you’re accused of a crime that happened years ago, it’s possible that it may already be too late to file a charge against you. However, someone just has to prove the point when the statute of limitations began. A criminal defense attorney at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. can verify if this is a possible defense, and use it to get a charge dismissed before even going to court.

If this option is not available to you, our team of experienced attorneys will utilize our resources to find evidence, create a defense, and fight against the charges against you. No matter how recent or long ago the incident this charge is based on occurred, don’t try to fight criminal defense charges alone. Contact us for help today.