How Long Does the Government Have to File Criminal Charges?

Criminal Law
How Long Does the Government Have to File Criminal Charges?

How Long Does the Government Have to File Criminal Charges?

Posted in Criminal Law
by Justin Van Den Heuvel

In the civil context, such as in a personal injury or car accident case, Michigan’s statute of limitations prevents plaintiffs from filing a lawsuit when too much time has elapsed between the date the injury occurred and the date the lawsuit is filed. The purpose of this statute of limitations is to encourage the speedy resolution of civil disputes and prevent the litigation of lawsuits that have become “stale” due to the passage of time. In many cases, a plaintiff who has failed to timely file his or her civil lawsuit is forever barred from doing so in the future.

There is a comparable statute of limitations for criminal offenses as well. Its operation, however, is more complex and nuanced than the statute of limitations applicable in civil cases.

Certain Criminal Charges Can Be Filed at Any Time

Michigan law allows prosecutors to file murder charges against a defendant at any time, regardless of the number of years that have elapsed since the murder occurred. In other words, prosecutors are free to file criminal charges against a defendant for a murder that happened ten, twenty, thirty, or more years ago without violating the statute of limitations.

Crimes such as kidnapping and manslaughter can be filed up to ten years after the date the offense is alleged to have been committed.

For sexual-related offenses, the time limit within which charges must be filed depends on the age of the victim and whether the alleged offender has been identified. In cases where the victim and offender are both over the age of 18 years and the offender is identifiable, prosecutors have ten years to file criminal charges against the defendant. If the victim was under the age of 18 at the time the offense is committed, the prosecution may wait until the victim turns 21 years old before filing criminal charges, which may be more than 10 years. If the offender is initially unidentified but DNA evidence later establishes the identity of the offender, the prosecution has 10 years from the date identity is established to file charges.

For other offenses, the prosecution generally has six years from the date the alleged offense occurred within which to file criminal charges.

Circumstances that “Stop the Clock” from Running

There are two circumstances which do not result in the running of the statute of limitations’ “clock.” In other words, if either of these two circumstances exist, then the time during which the circumstance exists is not counted toward the statute of limitations. Specifically, if the offender is not known because he or she has concealed his or her involvement in the crime or if the offender does not regularly reside in the state of Michigan, the statute of limitations’ “clock” is not running and will not run until the circumstance no longer exists.

Contact an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

The statute of limitations is but one of many protections afforded to criminal defendants in Michigan. When you are charged with a criminal offense, it is essential that you are represented by experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense counsel so that all of your legal rights are protected. Contact the Grand Rapids criminal defense attorneys at the Van Den Heuvel Law Office for aggressive and innovative representation by calling (616) 698-0000 or contacting our office online.



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