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Rhode Island Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

Similar to time limits for civil lawsuits, state prosecutors are required to file criminal charges within the limits established by the criminal statute of limitations. These time limits start running at the time the crime was committed, but the "clock" may be paused if the suspect is trying to evade law enforcement or living out of state. So if someone committed a bank robbery, left the state, and went into hiding under an assumed name, the clock would not start running again until that person either returned to his or her home state and/or lived openly. This does not mean crime suspects are "safe" in other states -- state troopers from different states often cooperate -- but discourages criminals from "laying low" until the statute of limitations has passed.

These time limits for criminal charges are meant to help preserve the integrity of evidence, including witness testimony, and maintain greater efficiency in the criminal justice system generally. Murder usually has no statute of limitations, but time limits typically are divided by crime classification (felony or misdemeanor).

Rhode Island Criminal Statute of Limitations at a Glance

Along with murder, there is not statute of limitations for arson, burglary, counterfeiting, robbery, rape, sexual assault, child molestation, and other serious crimes in Rhode Island. Most other felonies and misdemeanors have a three-year time limit.

Additional details of Rhode Island's time limits for criminal charges are listed below. See Time Limits to Bring a Case: The Statute of Limitations to learn about similar time limits used in civil law.

Code Section 12-12-17; 12-12-18
Felonies Treason against state; homicide, arson, burglary, counterfeiting, forgery, robbery, rape, sexual assault, child molestation, bigamy, manufacturing, selling, distributing or possession of controlled substance, or conspiracy to any of the above: none; larceny, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, racketeering, antitrust violation, or conspiracy to any of the above: 10 yrs.; violations of refuse or hazardous waste disposal or water pollution: 7 yrs.; others: 3 yrs.
Misdemeanors 3 yrs.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run Stolen, lost, destroyed information: extends limitation period one year

Note: State laws are constantly changing through decisions from higher courts, the enactment of newly signed legislation, and other means. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you should contact a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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