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New York Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

The criminal statute of limitations in New York sets deadlines for when criminal charges may be filed. As the phrase implies, it "sets limits" for how long a prosecutor may wait to file formal charges. Like in most other states, there is no time limit to bring charges for crimes such as murder or crimes punishable by life in prison. But lesser felonies have either a 6- or a 3-year statute of limitations, while most misdemeanors (but not all) are one year.

The following chart provides the basics of New York criminal statute of limitations law and a more in-depth look at the subject follows. See Details on State Criminal Statute of Limitations for more general information.

Code Section Pen. §§799 et seq.
Felonies Murder, other offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment, embezzlement of public funds: none; offenses punishable by 8 or more years in prison: 6 yrs.; offenses punishable by imprisonment: 3 yrs.
Misdemeanors 1 yr.; misdemeanor violation committed on a minor under 14: 3 yrs.; sexual exploitation by physician or therapist: 2 yrs.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run Not in state, max. extension 3 yrs.; statutory periods do not begin until offense is or should have been discovered

Purposes for Criminal Statutes of Limitations

Some people may believe that if you commit a crime, you should be able to be held accountable for that crime for the rest of your life. However, criminal statutes of limitations are not necessarily designed to let criminals go. One of the larger justifications is for the protection of the innocent. As years pass, you may lose information that would have proven your innocence. Even though the prosecution has the burden of proving that you committed the crime, having evidence that you did not commit the crime, like photographs or receipts showing that you were somewhere else when the crime was committed, can save you a lot of time and money if you are accused.

Statute of Limitations for Heinous Crimes

For some crimes that the New York state legislature has determined to be especially heinous, there is no statute of limitations. This means that the prosecution can charge someone with one of these crimes no matter how much time has passed since the alleged crime was committed. Those crimes with no statute of limitations include murder, any crime punishable by life in prison, and embezzlement of public funds.

Statute of Limitations for Other Felonies

For other felonies not punishable by life in prison, but still punishable by eight or more years in prison, the prosecution may bring its case within six years. For all other felonies punishable by imprisonment, the statute of limitations is three years.

Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors

For most misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is one year. If the criminal violation was committed against a minor under 14, the state can bring its case after three years. For the crime of sexual exploitation by a physician or therapist, the statute of limitations is two years.

When does the time limit start?

The time limit for the prosecution to bring its case does not begin until the crime is discovered, or should have been discovered.

If you would like to know more about statute of limitations for crimes in New York, there are many private criminal defense attorneys throughout the state who may be able to help. In addition to letting you know how long the prosecution has to charge someone of a crime, they may also be able to help you defend your case if you are accused.

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