In Texas, the majority of crimes have a statute of limitations. This is a limit on the amount of time a prosecutor has to file formal charges against a suspect. Under most circumstances, if the statute of limitations has passed, you cannot be prosecuted for the crime.
Generally, the statute of limitations is shorter for misdemeanors than for felonies. For some crimes, there is no statute of limitations. These regulations are laid out in Article 12.01 et seq. of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
The time limit typically starts when the crime is committed, however in some cases it begins when the crime should have been discovered. Certain circumstances can also cause the statute of limitations to be extended.
Time Limits for Specific Crimes
The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is 2 years. These crimes include possession of marijuana up to 2 ounces; theft of property less than $50; misdemeanor assault; and prostitution.
For felonies, the time limit varies depending on the crime. Here are some common time limits outlined in the Tex.Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art 12.01 et seq.:
- 10 years: Theft by a public servant of government property; theft by the administrator of an estate; forgery; injury to the elderly/disabled; sexual assault; arson; compelling prostitution.
- 7 years: Money laundering; credit card abuse; Medicaid fraud.
- 5 years: All other types of theft, kidnapping; burglary; endangering a child; insurance fraud.
- 3 years: Felonies not specifically mentioned in the code section, including felony assault charges.
If the victim of a crime is under the age of 17 when the crime occurred, the statute of limitations is typically extended.
For some crimes that are particularly reprehensible, there is no statute of limitations. A prosecutor can file charges at any time after the crime occurs.
These crimes include:
- Human trafficking
- Certain types of sexual assault, including sexual abuse of a child
In addition to the above, on September 1, 2017, a new law went into effect in Texas — SB 998 — removing the statute of limitations on criminal cases that involve the exploitation of a child, the elderly and disabled individuals.
For crimes that do have a statute of limitations, sometimes the time limit can be put on hold. For example, the limit may be suspended for time the accused is absent from the state.
Statute of Limitations and Criminal Defense
Clients who have been accused of a crime a long time after the crime occurred may wonder why it took so long for charges to be filed and whether that could help the defense of their case.
If a prosecutor files charges after the statute of limitations has passed, this information can be used by a criminal defense attorney to get the charges dropped.
Have you been charged with a crime in Texas? Contact Houston criminal attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss today for help. Ms. Strauss has been helping those facing criminal charges for more than 15 years and is committed to protecting her clients’ rights throughout every phase of their case.