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Massachusetts Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

State laws place limits on how much time prosecutors have to file criminal charges, called the criminal statute of limitations. Most states have different limits for different kinds of crimes, and Massachusetts does as well. There is a six year time limit for the filing of misdemeanor charges, for instance. For robbery charges there is a 10 year limit and for rape charges a 16 year statute of limitations.

Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Massachusetts

Learn about Massachusetts' criminal statute of limitation laws and related matters in the sections below.

Code Section

Ch. 277§63

Felonies

Murder: none; robbery, intent to rob or murder with dangerous weapon: 10 yrs; rape, assault with intent to rape, rape/abuse/assault of child: 15 yrs.; others: 6 yrs.; indecent assault on child, on mentally retarded person, rape/abuse/assault of child, kidnapping of minor, sexual offenses such as drugging for sex, enticing for marriage, inducing minor into prostitution, lewd and lascivious behavior or acts, dissemination of harmful matter to minors, exhibiting nudity, or crime against nature: when victim reaches 16 yrs. old or violation is reported, whichever is earlier

Misdemeanors

6 yrs.

Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run

Tolled when defendant is not usually and publicly resident

The idea behind criminal statutes of limitation is to ensure criminal trials (and possible subsequent convictions) are based on evidence that has not deteriorated over time. Testimonial evidence (officer statements, eyewitness accounts, etc.) and physical evidence (fingerprints, DNA, etc.) can fade or be lost over time. Therefore it is better to have a criminal trial as soon after an incident as possible. Longer or indefinite statutes of limitation attempt to balance the interest in fair trials with the seriousness of the offense. The thought is that criminals should not be able to avoid the consequences for serious crimes just by waiting out the authorities.

Therefore, most statutes of limitation 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 or otherwise living in hiding, this will pause, or “toll,” the statutory clock. The clock resumes running, so to speak, if the criminal reenters the state.

Related Resources for Massachusetts Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:

Any criminal charge is a serious matter, and criminal statutes can vary depending on your jurisdiction. If you have been charged with a crime, you can contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss your case. You can also visit FindLaw’s Criminal Law Basics for additional details.

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