Criminal Statute of Limitations in Texas

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Criminal Statute of Limitations in Texas

The statute of limitations for a criminal case refers to how long prosecutors have to bring a case against a person. The statute of limitations are different for difference offenses and are laid out in Article 12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The legislature tries to balance the need for victims to come forwards with the needs of the accused to have evidence to defend themselves with. The statute of limitations for a criminal case is the time in which a case must be filed before being barred from prosecution due to delay. In other words, if the state fails to bring a case against a suspect within a certain time period, it loses the right to prosecute the case.

How Long are the Criminal Statutes of Limitations in Texas?

The criminal statute of limitations in Texas varies, depending on the severity of the offense. The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is two years. Unless specified, it’s three years for felonies. However, it’s important to point out that many felonies do carry a specified statute of limitations, usually at five years, seven years or ten years. Some criminal statute of limitations are based on the age of the victim. For some offenses, such as murder and aggravated sexual assault of a child, there is no criminal statute of limitations at all.The Statute of Limitations in Criminal Cases in Texas

A Chart of Criminal Statute of Limitations in Texas

Generally, the statute of limitations for criminal cases in Texas can be found under Chapter 12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Here’s a look at the statue of limitations for some common offenses:

OffenseLimitationStatute
MurderNone12.01(1)
ManslaughterNone12.01(1)
Sexual Assault of a ChildNone12.01(1)
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a ChildNone12.01(1)
Sexual Assaults where DNA was collectedNone12.01(1)
Serial Sexual AssaultNone12.01(1)
Continuous Sexual AssaultNone12.01(1)
Indecency with a ChildNone12.01(1)
Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in deathNone12.01(1)
Trafficking of childNone12.01(1)
Continuous Trafficking of PersonsNone12.01(1)
Compelling Prostitution of Child under 18None12.01(1)
Theft by Trustee10 Years12.01(2)
Theft by a Public Servant of Government Property10 Years12.01(2)
Forgery or passing a forged instrument10 Years12.01(2)
Injury to Elderly or Disabled (First Degree)10 Years12.01(2)
Sexual Assault10 Years12.01(2)
Arson10 Years12.01(2)
Trafficking of persons10 Years12.01(2)
Compelling Prostitution10 Years12.01(2)
Misapplication of fiduciary property7 Years12.01(3)
Securing fiduciary property by deception7 Years12.01(3)
Felony violation of Tax Code Chapter 1627 Years12.01(3)
False statement to obtain credit7 Years12.01(3)
Money laundering7 Years12.01(3)
Credit card or debit card abuse7 Years12.01(3)
Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information7 Years12.01(3)
Medicaid fraud7 Years12.01(3)
Bigamy (generally)7 Years12.01(3)
Theft5 years12.01(4)
Robbery5 years12.01(4)
Kidnapping (generally)5 years12.01(4)
Burglary (generally)5 years12.01(4)
Injury to Elderly or Disabled (Other than First Degree)5 years12.01(4)
Abandoning or Endangering a Child5 years12.01(4)
Insurance Fraud5 years12.01(4)
Sexual Performance by a childIf the victim was under 17 at the time of offense, 20 years from the victim's 18th birthday12.01(5)
Aggravated Kidnapping with intent to commit a sexual offenseIf the victim was under 17 at the time of offense, 20 years from the victim's 18th birthday12.01(5)
Injury to a ChildTen years from the 18th Birthday of the victim12.01(6)
Other felonies3 years12.01(7)
Misdemeanors2 years

What is the Statute of Limitations for a DWI in Texas?

The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor DWI is two years. This includes Driving While Intoxicated; Driving While Intoxicated – Misdemeanor Repetition; Driving While Intoxicated with a BAC >/= .15; and Driving While Intoxicated with an Open Container. The statute of limitations for Driving While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger and Driving While Intoxicated – Felony Repetition is three years. The statute of limitations for Intoxication Assault and Intoxication Manslaughter is three years.

Why Do We Have Criminal Statutes of Limitations?

Statutes of limitations exist because the passage of time affects the quality of evidence on both sides. Statutes of limitations protect individuals from having to defend themselves against charges when basic facts and evidence may have become obscured or deteriorated with the passage of time. As mentioned, statutes of limitations vary based on the offense and, for some crimes, there is no statute of limitations at all.  Additionally, the statute of limitations may be tolled, or suspended, under certain circumstances.

Can the Statute of Limitations Clock be Stopped?

The statute of limitations can be tolled (or paused) while the accused is absent from the state, by charging the person by indictment, information, or complaint.

What is “tolling” of a statute of limitations?

Under certain circumstances, the statute of limitations can be tolled, which basically means it is paused. For example, the statute of limitations is tolled for any time period in which the defendant was under indictment for “the same conduct, same act, or same transaction.” Similarly, the statute of limitations can be tolled while the accused is absent from the state. Tolling commonly occurs when a defendant is on the run. Simply put, tolling means the clock stops running for a certain period of time.


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