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Virginia Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

An Overview of Virginia's Criminal Statute of Limitations

Virginia law establishes time limits, as do all other states, for how soon after an arrest a prosecutor must file formal criminal charges. The statute of limitations, as these time limits are referred to, are meant to preserve the integrity of evidence and to ensure an efficient justice system. But some of the most serious crimes -- such as rape and murder -- don't have time limits. These types of cases can sometimes take a long time to solve, while victims and their families would not tolerate a violent criminal being let off the hook on such a technicality.

Most misdemeamors in Virginia have a one-year time limit, including minor assault and battery and certain theft charges. Crimes for which there is no statute of limitations include aggravated assault and battery, rape, murder, burglary, kidnapping, manslaughter, and robbery.

When Does the 'Clock' Start Ticking?

If we think of the statute of limitations as a clock, it doesn't necessarily start "ticking" once the crime has been committed or for the duration of time following a crime. For example, the clock does not run if the suspect is out of state or otherwise living as a fugitive. So if someone commits a crime and flees the state that same day, even for several decades, the clock will begin ticking the moment that person reenters the state.

The basic provisions of Virginia's criminal statute of limitations are highlighted in the chart below. See Details on State Criminal Statute of Limitations for a general overview.

Code Section 19.2-8
Felonies Murder: none; cruelty to animals: 5 yrs. (except for agricultural animals: 1 yr.); making false presentation under VA Unemployment Compensation Act to receive benefits, attempt to evade or failure to pay taxes, violation of laws re: discharge, dumping, or emission of toxic substance, violation of rules of VA Real Estate Board, illegal sales of wild birds, animals, or freshwater fish: 3 yrs.; malfeasance in office, Building Code violations: 2 yrs.; violation of Campaign Finance Disclosure Act: within 1 yr. of discovery, max. 3 yrs. after offense
Misdemeanors Petit larceny: 5 yrs.; attempt to produce abortion: 2 yrs.; others: 1 yr.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run Fleeing justice or concealing self to avoid arrest

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Virginia criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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