Statutes of Limitation

Some rights reserved by Alan CleaverStatutes of limitation vary throughout the United States. Some might be the same state to state, but many will vary depending on the various other laws that the states have. Often, the statutes of limitations vary depending on the severity of the crime. Thus, felonies tend to have a longer statute of limitations than misdemeanors. However, there are many factors that go into deciding what the statute of limitations would be.

Statutes of limitations often help the defendant. Meaning, sometimes defendants are able to avoid prosecution because the statute of limitations states that time is up. Or someone is able to avoid being sued. These limitations were created for many reasons. One reason is that it is hard to find and preserve evidence after a while for many types of cases. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to prosecute 40 years later for certain crimes or bring forth such old lawsuits. While the prosecution might not be happy about this statute of limitations, most defendants will be happy about them.

A statute of limitations applies to both civil and criminal cases. Lawsuits and assaults both have statutes of limitation. Sometimes this is an obvious time frame, but sometimes it is made more complicated by various reasons. This can include sex crimes and if the defendant was unable to be found for certain reasons. Sometimes evidence found later can allow prosecution within the right time frame, and sometimes it cannot. The time it takes the person against whom the crime was committed to report the crime is often a factor too. Civil lawsuits can also be complicated by these various rules too.

The Florida State Statutes addresses most criminal statute of limitations in Chapter 775. This can be challenging reading, since there are many exceptions and special circumstances to the rule. Florida often has different rules for sex crimes against minors. Some of these types of crimes can be prosecuted much later than similar crimes done against adults. FindLaw has some information about this and other criminal statutes of limitation.

Florida has many crimes that have no statute of limitations at all. This includes capital felonies and life felonies. This eHow article has a list of various capital felonies in different states. You will see that Florida says some types of murder and some sex crimes are capital and life felonies. has a more comprehensive explanation about capital felonies, including the fact that some states would not have capital felonies since they do not have capital punishment.

But civil law has its own set of statutes of limitation. You have a limited time to file a lawsuit against someone. Similar reasons to criminal cases, like the integrity of the evidence, are present here. But also the fact that sometimes the lawsuit wouldn’t make sense after a while and because sometimes having an unlimited amount of time to sue doesn’t work out for society in general.

Personal injury cases typically have 4 years to be filed. However, typically is the correct word to use since extenuating circumstances can apply as they do in criminal cases. This article on discusses more about these civil statutes of limitations and provides further info about personal injury cases in general.

Other legal issues have something similar to a statute of limitations. An example is the amount of time judgments have to be active. They run out after a certain amount of time that someone decided was a reasonable amount. (They can be renewed in certain situations, though.)

Attorney Christopher D. Smith is a Lakewood Ranch, Florida attorney with SmithLaw Attorneys. He concentrates in bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. Call 941-907-4774 to learn more and to ask about our free consultations.

Image: Some rights reserved by Alan Cleaver

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