Why are statutes of limitations used in criminal cases?

by | Feb 5, 2016 | Criminal Defense

Did you know that there are statutes of limitations for many criminal cases in Pennsylvania? While there are not any limitations for some major crimes, like murder and conspiracy to commit murder, most crimes do have limits. Here are a few examples:

— For misdemeanors, the limit is just two years.– For sexual offenses, the limit is 12 years.– If those sexual offenses involve minors, the clock does not begin until the minor is 18 years old.– For fraud, the limit is three years.

So, why are these limits used? Why can’t you be charged no matter when the evidence is discovered?

Essentially, the fear is that charges that are brought about long after the crime was allegedly committed will not go to trial in a fair manner since some of the evidence could have been negatively impacted by the passage of time. If there were fingerprints at the scene of the crime, for example, they may not be as clear or could be gone entirely. Even the things that witnesses claim to have seen or heard may be harder to trust since it’s difficult for people to accurately remember something that happened years ago.

It is worth noting, though, that someone who is accused of a crime does generally need to be in the public eye, and not in hiding, for the statute of limitations to apply. This is done to keep people from committing crimes and then running to other countries or states to hide out until they can’t be charged.

Those facing charges need to know all of the legal regulations in the case, including the use of a statute of limitations.

Source: FindLaw, “Pennsylvania Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws,” accessed Feb. 05, 2016