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Wisconsin Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

State criminal statute of limitations laws limit how long after a crime has been committed prosecutors have to file criminal charges. Wisconsin, like most states, has different limits depending on the type of crime involved. For example, misdemeanor charges have a three-year time limit for filing, while most felony charges have a six-year statute of limitations. There is no statutory limit on murder charges.

Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin's criminal statute of limitation laws and related matters are highlighted in the chart below.

Code Section

939.74

Felonies

Homicide: none; 1st degree intentional or reckless homicide, murder: none; intentional causing of bodily harm, recklessly causes bodily harm, failing to prevent bodily harm, mental harm, enticement causing bodily or mental harm, or giving or selling a controlled substance to a child: before child turns 26; others: 6 yrs.; sexual assault, physical abuse causing, sexual exploitation, incest, enticement of, or solicitation for prostitution of a child: before victim turns 31 yrs. old; if DNA evidence collected and can identify offender, within 1 year of identification if collected before time limitation expired

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors or adultery: 3 yrs.

Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run

Not publicly resident; if victim is unable to seek issuance of a complaint, that time period excluded due to threats, etc.; prosecution pending for same act

Criminal statutes of limitation are designed to ensure that criminal trials are based on the best available evidence. Physical evidence (like fingerprints and DNA) and testimonial evidence (like officer statements and eyewitness accounts) can deteriorate or be lost entirely over time. The length of particular statutes of limitation seeks to balance the interest in prosecuting serious offenses with the interest in conducting fair and accurate criminal trials.

With that in mind, 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, the proverbial statutory clock will pause. The clock will resume running when and if the criminal reenters the state. Therefore, criminals should are not able to avoid the consequences for serious crimes by simply waiting out the authorities.

Related Resources for Wisconsin Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:

Criminal statutes can vary depending on the crime and the jurisdiction, and criminal charges are a very serious matter. If you would like legal assistance with a criminal matter, you can contact a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney in your area. You can also visit FindLaw’s Criminal Law Basics for more articles and resources.

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