In Philadelphia, police and prosecutors have a certain amount of time after most types of criminal acts in which the must bring charges against the perpetrator. If they fail to bring charges within the prescribed period of time, they will not be able to file such charges in the future. This is known as a “statute of limitations.” The statutes of limitations for crimes in Philadelphia vary depending on what type of crime has been committed, and an experienced lawyer like those at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can help you figure out which statute applies to your situation. Below we will explore some of the issues with statutes of limitations and explain how long Philadelphia has to file criminal charges for each class of crimes.
When the Statute of Limitations Begins to Run in Philadelphia
Generally speaking, the statue of limitations begins to run as soon as the crime is complete. For example, if the crime is assault, the clock on the statute of limitations begins to tick as soon as the perpetrator has finished their attack on the victim. Once you are officially charged with a crime, such as through the issuing of an indictment or information against you or when a warrant is put out for your arrest, the clock ceases to run. In this case you would want a Philadelphia aggravated assault defense lawyer.
When the Statute of Limitations is Paused or Extended in Philadelphia
There are certain occasions when the statute of limitations in Philadelphia may be paused, or “tolled” as it is known in the legal community. Under Pennsylvania law, if the accused individual is absent from the state or if there is no reasonable way to ascertain their place of residence or workplace within the state, the statute of limitations is tolled. The clock stops ticking until the person moves back or an address is ascertained. If a separate prosecution is underway for the same conduct, the statute is also tolled.
Furthermore, for felonies and certain sexual offenses, there is a special scenario where the statute of limitations is extended. If new DNA evidence is discovered and a perpetrator who was otherwise unable to be identified is now identified, the Commonwealth has 1 year from the discovery of such evidence to bring charges if the statute of limitations has already passed.
Types of Crimes with No Statutes of Limitations
There are certain crimes in Philadelphia that are considered so serious that they have no statute of limitations. This means that you can be charged with this crime at any time, even decades after the crime was committed. For example, if you commit an intentional homicide when you are in your twenties, and you are now 70, you can still be charged with the crime of murder. The list of crimes that have no statute of limitations in Philadelphia include the following:
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Solicitation or conspiracy to commit murder where an actual murder results
- Vehicular Homicide
Statutes of Limitations for Criminal Offenses
Most crimes have some sort of statute of limitations that comes along with them. However, the amount of time the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has to charge you varies depending on the severity of the crime. Below is a list of the main categories of crimes for the purpose of statutes of limitations and the time frame in which they must be charged.
Major offenses are a group of statutorily designated crimes that comprises most types of major felonies. However, not all felonies are considered a major offense. For a major offense, the statute of limitations is 5 years. The following is a list of some of the types of major offenses:
- Aggravated Assault
- Terroristic Threats
Misdemeanors and Minor Felonies
For some minor felonies, and almost all misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is 2 years. This category includes the following:
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Receiving stolen property
- False imprisonment
- Simple assault
For summary offenses, the authorities must bring charges against you within a short period of time after when the offense occurred. The statute of limitations for summary offenses is a mere 30 days. Summary offenses include the following:
- Disorderly conduct
- Underage drinking
- Public Urination
- Public Intoxication
- Most traffic offenses
Fraud or Breach of Fiduciary Duty
There is a special category for the crimes of fraud or a breach of a fiduciary duty. Such a breach can include a lawyer mishandling client trust funds. For these crimes, the statute of limitations is 3 years.
Official misconduct occurs when a public official, such as an elected official or a police officer, breaches the public trust by committing a crime. An example would be a politician taking a bribe. For crimes of official misconduct, the statute of limitations is 8 years.
Major Sexual Offenses
Major sexual offenses have an extended statute of limitations of 12 years. Such charges include the following:
- Statutory Sexual Assault
- Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse
- Sexual Assault
- Institutional Sexual Abuse
- Aggravated Indecent Assault
Note that in November 2019, a bill was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor in response to widespread abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy. This law has eliminated the statute of limitations entirely for major sexual abuse crimes committed against minors in Philadelphia.
Call Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorneys Today to Understand How the Statute of Limitations May Affect Your Case
Statute of limitations laws can be tricky and depend on many factors, including the type of crime you have been charged with, whether an official has filed an information against you or issued a warrant for your arrest, and whether you have left the state when the authorities are trying to track you down. While felonies typically have a 5-year statute of limitations, misdemeanors a 2-year statute of limitations, and summary offenses a 30-day statute of limitations, there are many exceptions to this general statement as demonstrated above.
At The Law Offices of Lloyd Long, our seasoned Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys have years of experience fighting all sorts of criminal charges on behalf of our clients. We can help you understand how a statute of limitations might affect your case. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or think you may be charged with a crime, call us today at (215) 302-0171.