Like with civil lawsuits, police officers and criminal prosecutors have a time limit in which to file charges for most types of criminal offenses. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. Under New Jersey law, criminal charges are filed and a prosecution is commenced for limitations purposes once an indictment is found by a grand jury or when a warrant or other process is issued for a non-indictable offense.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is a law that states that a criminal charge must be filed within a certain period of time after the commission of the crime. Once the statute of limitations has expired on a particular crime committed by someone, the state is barred from filing criminal charges for that particular offense. Although it may seem counterintuitive to put a time limit on bringing charges for a crime, the purpose behind criminal statutes of limitations is to ensure the integrity of evidence, preserve the freshness of witness recollection, and facilitate the timely resolution of criminal cases.
Statutes of Limitations for Crimes in New Jersey
With the exception of homicide offenses (e.g. murder, manslaughter), every crime under New Jersey law has an applicable statute of limitations; however, homicide charges may be filed no matter how long ago the crime was committed, which reflects the serious nature of homicide.
The statutes of limitations for other types of crimes under New Jersey law include:
- Official misconduct or bribery-related offenses (including attempt and conspiracy to commit such offenses): Seven years
- Sexual assault of a child, criminal sexual contact with a child, or endangering the welfare of a child: Five years from the victim’s 18th birthday
- All other felonies: Five years
- Disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses: One year
What Happens If You Flee the Police and Leave the State?
Under New Jersey law, the statute of limitations on a criminal charge is suspended for the period of time during which a suspect flees and/or eludes law enforcement. This of course prevents a suspect from simply trying to wait out the limitations period — instead, the court will not start the clock until the suspect is brought into custody. So don’t think you may be able to get away with a crime just by waiting out the clock — the court may find that you attempted to evade or elude the police and stop the running of the statute of limitations on your charges.
Other Exceptions to Criminal Statutes of Limitations
In addition to pausing the statute of limitations for periods in which an offender has fled the state or is eluding law enforcement, other statutory provisions that can pause the statute of limitations include:
- If prosecution of the offense is supported by DNA or fingerprint evidence, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the state has possession of evidence necessary to establish identification of the perpetrator by comparison analysis
- Prosecutors are not prohibited from downgrading a timely filed charge, even if prosecution would have been untimely under the downgraded charge
- The limitations period does not run during any period of time in which a prosecution is pending in New Jersey arising from the same conduct
Contact an Experienced Woodbridge Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Charges in New Jersey
Were you arrested or charged in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at the Law Office of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC have successfully represented clients charged in Jersey City, Mt. Laurel, Freehold, Princeton, and throughout New Jersey. Call (732) 334-7468 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 227 Main Street, Woodbridge, NJ 07095, as well as offices located in Freehold, Mt. Laurel, Jersey City, and Princeton.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.