Alabama Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

A “statute of limitations,” in the criminal law context, is a law that limits when a person can be taken to trial for a crime he or she is suspected of comitting. One of the reaons for this is to ensure that the evidence and witnesses' memories are fresh when a case goes to trial. However, some crimes have no limit to when they can be tried, usually because of their especially violent or malicious nature, such as murder or sex crimes with child victims.

The following table details the criminal statute of limitations in Alabama.

Code Sections Alabama Code Title 15: Criminal Procedure, Chapter 3: Limitations on Prosecution
Felonies There’s no limit to when some felonies can be tried, including:
  • Any capital offense (various types of murder)
  • Felonies with the use, attempted use, or threat of violence
  • Felonies where serious physical injury or death resulted
  • Any sex offense involving a victim under 16 years old
  • Arson
  • Forgery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Drug trafficking crimes
All other felonies have a 3 year time period within which the prosecutor must start a criminal action against you.
Misdemeanors All misdemeanors, unless otherwise stated, must have an action started against you within 12 months of the commission of the crime.

Conversion of state or county revenues must be started within 6 years of the conversion (even if a felony offense).

Unlawfully taking or using another person’s property temporarily must begin prosecution within 30 days of the offense.
When Prosecution Commences The prosecution is deemed to have started, for the purposes of the statute of limitations when there’s been:
  • An indictment through a grand jury where the prosecutor brings evidence gather by the policy, usually reserved for
  • A warrant was issued
  • The defendant was either placed in jail or is out on bond or bail before trial
Acts During Which Time Limit Doesn’t Run The time elapsing between the first attempt to indict a defendant (which fails as the indictment is lost, destroyed, the grand jury charges no offense, or for another reason it was dismissed) and the subsequent indictment must be deducted from the time limit for the prosecution of the offense last charged. That means, if the prosecution stops with one indictment and later starts with another, that time is counted towards the limit, whether its 12 months, 3 years, or another time period.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Alabama's statute of limitations laws are fairly straight forward compared to other states, but they can still be confusing. You should see an experienced attorney if you are worried that your past behavior might be prosecuted or just need help understanding how the law could affect your case. Get started with a free initial case review from an Alabama attorney.

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