Statute of Limitations in Texas

criminal statute of limitations in texas

What are the 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 vary for different offenses and are laid out in Article 12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. By setting statute of limitations, the legislature tries to balance the need for victims to come forward with ability of the accused to have evidence for which to defend themselves. 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 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 statute of limitation at all.

A Chart of  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:

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.

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Why Do We Have 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.  Additionally, the statute of limitations may be tolled, or suspended, under certain circumstances.

Can the 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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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese
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