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Colorado Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

For nearly every crime, there's a criminal statute of limitations that limits how long prosecutors have to file criminal charges after the crime occurs. These limits will vary depending on the type of crime involved, with misdemeanor charges in the Rocky Mountain State having time limits from 18 months to five and many felony charges, like murder, kidnapping, and treason, having no statutory limit on filing charges.

Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Colorado

The following chart outlines Colorado’s criminal statute of limitations laws.

Code Section

COL. REV. STAT. §16-5-401: Limitation For Commencing Criminal Proceedings And Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

Felonies

Murder, attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit murder, kidnapping, attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit kidnapping, treason, attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit treason, any forgery regardless of penalty provided, attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any forgery regardless of penalty provided: none; sexual assault, aggravated incest, trafficking in or sexual exploitation of children, soliciting for child prostitution, pandering or procurement of a child: 10 yrs.; other felonies: 3 yrs. (bribery and abuse of public office: 3 yr. extension; sexual offenses on children under 15 yrs. of age: 7 yr. extension)

Misdemeanors

18 mos.; Class I and II and traffic offenses: 1 yr.; petty offenses: 6 mos.; 3rd degree sexual assault: 5 yrs.

Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run

Absent from state: 5 yrs. maximum extension

The goal of criminal statutes of limitations is to make sure that criminal trials are fair and based on the best possible evidence. Evidence of a crime, both physical (like fingerprints and DNA) and testimonial (like officer statements and eyewitness accounts) can fade or become unusable over time or be lost entirely. The reason particular statutes of limitation vary in length is the justice system’s attempt to balance the interest in prosecuting the most serious offenses with the interest in conducting accurate criminal trials, while not having charges hang over a person’s head indefinitely.

As such, the prosecutorial “clock” on most statutes of limitations will only run while the alleged perpetrator remains visible and in the state where the crime occurred. If the suspect is out of state or otherwise in hiding, the statutory clock will pause, and will resume running when and if the criminal reenters the state. This is to prevent criminals avoiding the consequences for serious crimes by simply running, hiding, and waiting out the authorities.

Related Resources for Colorado Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:

As noted above, each state’s statutes of limitations vary depending on the crime and the jurisdiction, and any criminal charge should be taken very seriously. If you would like legal assistance with a criminal matter, you can contact a Colorado criminal defense attorney. You can also visit FindLaw’s Criminal Law Basics for more information and articles on this topic.

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