Can you be charged with a crime from five months or five years ago? It's a valid question and each state has regulations in place, called the criminal statute of limitations, that limit how much time prosecutors have to file criminal charges.
Maryland has different limits for different kinds of crimes, and it all depends on the type of offense at issue. For example, while there's just a two year time limit for the filing of misdemeanor charges, felony charges have a five-year statute of limitations and there's no limit on murder charges.
Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Maryland
Learn about Maryland's criminal statute of limitation laws and related matters in the sections below.
|Code Section||Cts. & Jud. Proc. §§5-106, 107|
|Felonies||Murder: none; manslaughter or homicide by vehicle, welfare or Medicare fraud, tax-related offense, sex discrimination in paying wages, compensation in connection with adoption, unauthorized practice of medicine: 3 yrs.; criminal offense under state election laws, conflict of interest laws, or criminal misfeasance by officer of the state (or conspiracy thereof): 2 yrs.; assault, libel, or slander: 1 yr.|
|Misdemeanors||Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment: none; other misdemeanors: 1 yr.; vehicle violations of unlawfully using a driver's license or fraudulently using false name when applying for driver's license: 2 yrs.; Sabbath breaking, drunkenness, or selling alcoholic beverages after hours or to a minor in Allegany County: 30 days|
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run||-|
Note: State laws are always subject to change, usually through the passage of new legislation or as the result of high court decisions. Make sure you contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Why Do We Have a Criminal Statute of Limitations?
The point of criminal statutes of limitations is to ensure that criminal trials are based on the best available evidence. And to promote fairness in how long the government can wait to pursue criminal charges. Testimonial evidence like officer statements and eyewitness accounts, and physical evidence like fingerprints and DNA can fade or be lost over time. Therefore, it's best to have criminal trials as soon after an incident as possible. Longer or indefinite statutes of limitations seek to balance the interest in fair trials with the seriousness of the offense. The idea here is that criminals should not be able to avoid facing the music for serious crimes by waiting out the authorities.
But hiding out or moving out of state doesn't necessarily get criminals off the hook. Most statutes of limitations will run only while the alleged criminal remains visible and in the state where the crime occurred. If the suspect is out of the state, on the lam, or otherwise living in hiding, this will pause, or “toll,” the statutory clock. The clock will resume running if and when the criminal reenters the state.
Maryland Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources
Criminal charges are a very serious matter, and criminal statutes can vary depending the crime and on the jurisdiction. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, you can contact a Maryland criminal defense attorney in your area to schedule a consultation. You can also visit FindLaw’s Criminal Law Basics for more introductory information on this topic.
Have a Maryland Attorney Evaluate Your Criminal Case at No Charge
As long as the statute of limitations hasn't expired, prosecutors may charge you with a crime if they have enough evidence to ensure a conviction. It almost always makes sense to have legal counsel by your side to help you defend against charges. Get a head start today by having a Maryland criminal defense attorney review your case for free.
Contact a qualified attorney.