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Criminal Statute of Limitations in New York

For most crimes in New York, a prosecutor must bring criminal charges within a set period of time called a statute of limitations in order to prosecute the defendant. The statute of limitations will vary based on the crime charged, and generally longer statute of limitations periods will be imposed on crimes that are considered more serious.

The statute of limitations period begins to run at the time that the alleged criminal activity took place, although in certain cases the period will not begin until the criminal violation is discovered, for example when there is a criminal violation of an environmental conversation law. Thus, if a certain crime allegedly took place in September 2015, and the statute of limitations for the crime is five years, a New York prosecutor will have until September 2020 to commence a prosecution of the crime. The statute of limitations may also be tolled – a legal term meaning suspended – under certain circumstances, including where a defendant has been out of the state during the statute of limitations period or where the defendant’s whereabouts are unknown. Thus, if a certain crime has a two-year statute of limitations period, and a defendant moves out of New York one year after the alleged crime is committed and then he moves back to New York three years later, there will still be another year in which the prosecutor can bring criminal charges after he returns to New York.

Statute of Limitations Periods in New York

Here are the various statute of limitations periods in New York:

No Statute of Limitations

  • Class A felonies, including the following:
    • Murder (first and second degree)
    • Arson (first degree)
    • Conspiracy (first degree)
    • Criminal possession or sale of a controlled substance (first degree)
    • Kidnapping (first degree)
    • Aggravated enterprise corruption
    • Terrorism (if risk of death or serious physical injury)
  • Rape (first degree)
  • Aggravated Sexual Abuse (first degree)
  • Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child (first degree)

Eight-Year Statute of Limitations

  • Terrorism (if no risk of death or serious physical injury)

Five-Year Statute of Limitations

  • All other felonies not classified as Class A felonies
  • Course of Sexual Conduct Against a Child (second degree)
  • Misconduct in Public Office (statute of limitations period begins to run once defendant leaves office, although action may be brought earlier)

Four-Year Statute of Limitations

  • Environmental conversation law violation (statute of limitations period begins to run upon discovery of violation)

Three-Year Statute of Limitations

  • Misdemeanor violations of tax law or NYC administrative code (statute of limitations period begins to run upon discovery of violation)

Two-Year Statute of Limitations

  • Class A misdemeanors
  • Class B misdemeanors

One-Year Statute of Limitations

  • Petty offenses
  • Larceny by person with fiduciary duty (statute of limitations period begins to run upon discovery of larceny)

Get Help with Criminal Charges from Experienced New York Criminal Defense Attorneys

There are various reasons for imposing a statute of limitations on criminal prosecutions, including increasing the possibility that evidence and witnesses will be available for trial and providing potential defendants with some security that they will not be prosecuted for alleged acts that took place decades in the past. If a defendant can successfully show that the statute of limitations has passed for a certain crime, this will act as a complete bar to the prosecutor’s ability to bring the charges, and the case will have to be dismissed. Understanding what statute of limitations applies to a given charge, when the period commenced, and whether or not it was tolled, can be a complex analysis, and it is important to have a knowledgeable lawyer who can mount your best defense in this area.

If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense in Orange County or throughout the Hudson Valley, contact Dupée & Monroe, P.C. in Goshen for practical advice and effective representation from knowledgeable and experienced New York criminal defense attorneys.

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