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Colorado Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

A criminal statute of limitations limits how long prosecutors have to file criminal charges after the crime occurs. These limits vary depending on the type of crime. In Colorado, misdemeanor charges have time limits ranging from 6 months to five years while many felony charges, such as murder, kidnapping, and treason, have no statutory limit on filing charges. The chart below includes key information about Colorado's criminal statute of limitations laws.

What is the Purpose of a Time Limit?

Criminal statutes of limitations help ensure that criminal trials are fair and based on the best possible evidence. Evidence of a crime, both physical (fingerprints and DNA) and testimonial (officer statements and eyewitness accounts) can fade or become unusable over time or be lost entirely. Particular statute of limitations vary in length because the justice system attempts to balance:

  • Effectively prosecuting the most serious offenses.
  • Conducting accurate criminal trials.
  • Providing a fair and speedy trial so the charges don't hang over a person's head indefinitely.

How is the Statute of Limitations Tolled?

Time limits for filing criminal charges run only when the suspect is visible and within the state where the crime was committed.

Tolling a statue of the limitations suspends the running of the time limit. If the suspect is out of state or otherwise in hiding, the statutory clock will pause and will resume running only when and if the criminal reenters the state. This prevents criminals from avoiding the consequences for serious crimes by simply running, hiding, and waiting out the authorities.

Criminal Statute of Limitations in Colorado

The following chart outlines Colorado's criminal statute of limitations laws.

State Colorado
Topic Criminal Statute of Limitations
Definition The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Colorado law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from 6 months to no limit.
Code Section Col. Rev. Stat. Section 16-5-401
Felonies
  • Murder, kidnapping, treason, forgery, or aggravated incest and certain types of sexual assault when the offense was reported within 10 years of being committed and DNA evidence identifies the defendant: none
  • Vehicular homicide or leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a person's death: 5 years; Both vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in a person's death occurring in the same criminal episode: 10 years
  • All others: 3 years
Misdemeanors 18 months
Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
  • Sexual offenses (generally): none
  • Exceptions to no time limit for sex crimes include: misdemeanor sexual assault: 5 years; other specific sexual violations: 10 years
  • Besides the above limitations, statutes of limitation can be extended from the three-year limit for the following crimes: sexual exploitation: additional 7 years; misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact: additional 3 years, 6 months
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
  • Absent from state: 5 years maximum extension
  • Some offenses concealed by fraud or difficult to detect may not begin to run until discovered or extended for 3 years
Other
  • Petty offenses: 6 months
  • Traffic offenses: 1 year
  • Bribery and other corrupt practices involving public officials or directed toward the government, tax evasion, for example, extends the statute of limitations by 3 years

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Colorado Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:

Learn More About Colorado Criminal Statute of Limitations from an Attorney

As noted above, the statutes of limitations vary depending on the crime, and any criminal charge should be taken very seriously. If you're charged with a crime in Colorado, it's a good idea to contact a local criminal defense attorney to learn more about the charges you're facing and your options moving forward.

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