Every state has time limits for filing criminal charges, called the "statute of limitations." Prosecutors have a certain amount of time after a crime has been committed before they must file charges against a suspect, which varies by state and type of crime. Missouri criminal statutes of limitation are fairly uniform, mostly based on the classification of the crime (i.e. felony, misdemeanor).
Once the "clock" has run out, the person who committed the crime is essentially off the hook. But in order for the clock to run, the criminal must be in the state and living openly, and thus not a fugitive or otherwise evading prosecution. To live "openly" means to be visible and preferably employed.
Civil law also has statutes of limitations, which also vary by state and type of claim. See Time Limits to Bring a Case: The "Statute of Limitations" to learn more.
Nearly all states, including Missouri, have certain crimes that are not limited by a statute of limitations. Murder and Class A felonies -- for example, first-degree kidnapping or forcible rape of a child under 12 -- have no time limit in the Show-Me State.
The reasoning behind statutes of limitation include the importance of preserving evidence -- witness testimony and physical evidence -- and the notion that fear of criminal prosecution (except for the most serious charges) shouldn't hang over suspects' heads indefinitely.
The following chart details Missouri's criminal statute of limitations, with links to related resources. See FindLaw's Criminal Law Basics section for additional articles offering a general overview.
|Felonies||Murder or Class A felony: none; others: 3 yrs.; unlawful sexual offenses involving person under 17 yrs. old: 10 yrs.; if fraud or breach of fiduciary duty is material element of offense: 1-3 yrs. after discovery; official misconduct: 2-3 yrs. after offense or public employment|
|Misdemeanors||1 yr.; infractions: 6 mos.|
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run||Absent state, hiding: maximum 3 yr. extension; prosecution pending for same conduct, lacks mental fitness: maximum 3 yr. extension|
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Missouri criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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