If you have been arrested, questioned, or believe you are under investigation for a crime, you are likely living in fear of being charged with a crime every day. The good news is that there is a limit to the amount of time that a prosecutor may wait before charging you with most crimes. That amount of time is referred to as the statute of limitations. Therefore, in most situations, you may not get charged after a certain amount of time has passed since the date of the suspected criminal act. However, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania varies for different crimes, so you will always want to seek guidance from a criminal defense attorney as soon as you suspect you may be charged with a crime.
Examples of criminal statutes of limitations
Generally speaking, the prosecutor has a longer time to charge more serious crimes. The following are some examples of time periods set out by Pennsylvania law:
- Summary offenses (harassment, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, first offense of shoplifting, underage drinking, and many traffic violations) = 30 days
- Misdemeanors = 2 years
- Minor felonies = 2 years
- Breach of fiduciary duty and fraud = 3 years
- Major felonies or conspiracy/solicitation to commit a major felony = 5 years
- Major sexual offenses = 12 years (if the victim is a minor, this period does not begin until the minor turns 18 years old)
- Murder, conspiracy to murder, soliciting to commit murder and the murder happens, felony murder, manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide = no statute of limitations
Pennsylvania legislators can alter these statutes of limitations at any time, so you always want to consult with a criminal defense attorney if you fear you may be charged.
Once you are charged, there will either be a warrant put out for your arrest or you may receive a court summons in the mail for more minor offenses. Either way, you want to be sure you have an attorney who can find out whether or not you have been charged so you do not end up in jail if law enforcement tracks you down or if you miss a court date.
Contact a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney today
Brian Zeiger is an experienced criminal defense attorney very familiar with Pennsylvania statutes of limitations who can help you through this difficult and stressful time. Call him today at 215.546.0340 to set up an appointment if you have been charged or believe you may be charged with a crime.