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Iowa 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. Iowa, like most states, has different limits depending on the type of crime involved. For example, misdemeanor charges have a one-year time limit for filing, while most felony charges have a three-year statute of limitations. There is no statutory limit on murder charges.

Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Iowa

The chart below highlights Iowa's criminal statutes of limitation and related matters.

State Iowa
Topic Criminal Statute of Limitations
Definition The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Iowa law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from 1 year to no limit.
Code Section Iowa Code Chapter 802, Sections 802.1 to 802.10
Felonies
  • First or second-degree murder: none
  • First, second, or third-degree sexual abuse: 10 years or 3 years from the date the suspect is identified by DNA evidence, whichever is later
  • Incest: 10 years
  • sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist, or school employee: 10 years from the last treatment or the last day of school attendance or enrollment
  • Fraud or breach of fiduciary obligation: 1 year upon discovery not to exceed 8 years, that is extending the general 3-year time limit by 5 years
  • Other felonies: 3 years
Misdemeanors
  • Simple misdemeanor: 1 year
  • Aggravated or serious misdemeanor: 3 years
  • Fraud or breach of fiduciary obligation: 1 year upon discovery not to exceed 6 years, that is extending the 1-year period by 5 years
Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
  • First, second, or third-degree sexual abuse: 15 years after the victim turns 18 or 3 years from the date the suspect is identified by DNA evidence, whichever is later
  • Incest or sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist, or school employee: 15 years after the victim turns 18
  • Other sexual offenses; first, second, or third-degree kidnapping; or human trafficking: 10 years after the victim turns 18 or 3 years from the date the suspect is identified by DNA evidence, whichever is later
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run
  • When a person leaves the state or is not publicly residing in Iowa.
  • Public officials, during the time of employment or term of service and the offense relates to misconduct or violations of trust associated with the position.
  • Filing DNA evidence of the crime without identifying a suspect
Other
  • Violating a municipal or county rule or ordinance: 1 year
  • Continuing crimes, the applicable statute of limitations will run from the last act committed

What is the Purpose of a Time Limit?

In criminal cases, physical evidence (fingerprints and DNA) and testimonial evidence (officer statements and eyewitness accounts) can fade, degrade, or even disappear over time. Therefore, the sooner the prosecution and defense can get the evidence to trial, the better for both sides.

The length of particular statutes of limitation seeks to balance the interest in prosecuting serious offenses with the interest in conducting fair, speedy, and accurate criminal trials so that a person does not have a criminal charge hanging over his or her 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.

Iowa Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources

State statutes of limitation in criminal cases can be complicated. You can find additional articles and resources in FindLaw's section on Criminal Law Basics. You can also contact an Iowa criminal defense attorney if you would like legal advice regarding a criminal issue.

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