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Iowa Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

Crimes are investigated my police and charged and taken to trial by criminal prosecutors. And for most crimes, there is a time limit on how long prosecutors have to bring a criminal defendant to trial. These limits can vary depending on the state and the nature of the crime, with more serious felony charges normally having longer time limits than misdemeanor charges. This is an introduction to criminal statutes of limitations laws in Iowa.

Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Iowa

The chart below lists the details of Iowa's criminal statutes of limitation.

Code Section

Iowa Code 802, et seq.: Limitations of Criminal Actions


1st and 2nd degree murder: none; others: 3 yrs.; 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree sex abuse committed on or with a person under 18: within 10 yrs. after victim turns 18; other 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree sex abuse: 10 yrs; incest with person under 18: within 10 yrs. after victim turns 18; sexual exploitation by counselor or therapist: 10 yrs., unless victim under 18 yrs., then 10 yrs. after victim turns 18; fraud or breach of fiduciary duty: extension up to 3 yrs.


Serious misdemeanor: 3 yrs.; simple misdemeanor or violation of ordinances: 1 yr.

Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run

Outside state or nonresident

In criminal cases, physical evidence (like fingerprints and DNA) and testimonial evidence (like 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.

One of the interests in criminal statutes of limitation is to try to ensure speedy criminal trials that are fair and based on the best possible evidence. The other interest balanced by statutes of limitation is a person's interest in not having a criminal charge hanging over his or her head indefinitely.

In most states, the statutory "clock" on criminal cases only runs while the defendant remains visible and in the state where the crime occurred. If the suspect is in hiding or otherwise outside the state, the clock will pause, and then resume running if and when the suspect reenters the state. This prevents criminals avoiding prosecution for serious crimes by running, hiding, and attempting to wait out the authorities.

Iowa Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources

State statutes of limitation criminal cases vary 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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