Can you be charged with a crime from five months or five years ago? It's a valid question and each state has regulations in place, called the criminal statute of limitations, that limit how much time prosecutors have to file criminal charges.
Wyoming is an interesting case study on this subject. In the Cowboy State, there is no statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions. Put another way, you can be prosecuted at any time for committing any crime, no matter how far back it was.
|Code Section||No statute of limitations for any criminal prosecution|
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run||-|
The Argument for a Criminal Statute of Limitations
Again, Wyoming lawmakers have opted to go their own route in this area of the law and not put any criminal statute of limitations on the books. In other states, the point of criminal statutes of limitations is to ensure that criminal trials are based on the best available evidence and to promote fairness in how long the government can wait to pursue criminal charges. Testimonial evidence like officer statements and eyewitness accounts, and physical evidence like fingerprints and DNA can fade or be lost over time.
Therefore, it's best to have criminal trials as soon after an incident as possible. Longer or indefinite statutes of limitations seek to balance the interest in fair trials with the seriousness of the offense. The idea here is that criminals should not be able to avoid facing the music for serious crimes by waiting out the authorities.
But hiding out or moving out of state doesn't necessarily get criminals off the hook. Most statutes of limitations 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, on the lam, or otherwise living in hiding, this will pause, or “toll,” the statutory clock. The clock will resume running if and when the criminal reenters the state.
Wyoming Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources
Criminal charges are a very serious matter, and criminal statutes can vary depending the crime and on the jurisdiction. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, you can contact a Wyoming criminal defense attorney in your area to schedule a consultation. You can also visit FindLaw’s Criminal Law Basics for more introductory information on this topic.
Contact a qualified attorney.