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Massachusetts Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

State laws place limits on how much time prosecutors have to file criminal charges, called the criminal statute of limitations. Most states have different limits for different kinds of crimes, and Massachusetts does as well. There is a six-year time limit for the filing of misdemeanor charges, for instance. For robbery charges, there is a 10-year limit, and for rape charges, a 15-year statute of limitations.

Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Massachusetts

Learn about Massachusetts' criminal statute of limitation laws and related matters in the sections below.

State Massachusetts
Topic Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws
Definition The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from six years to no time limit.
Code Sections Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 277 Sec. 63Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 265
Felonies
  • Murder: No time limit.
  • Indecent assault and battery on child under 14 during commission of certain offenses, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Indecent assault and battery on child under 14, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Indecent assault and battery on child under 14 by certain previously convicted offenders, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Indecent assault and battery on person with intellectual disability, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Wanton or reckless behavior creating a risk of serious bodily injury or sexual abuse to a child, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Rape and/or abuse of child, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Rape of child during commission of certain offenses by use of force, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Rape of child through use of force by previously convicted offender: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Assault of child, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Rape: 15 years time limit.
  • Assault with intent to commit rape: 15 years time limit.
  • Conspiracy to commit or accessory of rape/assault with intent to commit rape: 15 years time limit.
  • Armed robbery or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: 10-year time limit.
  • Assault with intent to rob or murder or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: 10-year time limit.
  • Robbery by unarmed person or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: 10-year time limit.
  • Stealing by confining or putting in fear or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: 10-year time limit.
  • Indecent assault and battery on child, or person with intellectual disabilities; rape/abuse/assault of child; kidnapping of minor; human trafficking; sexual offenses such as enticing for marriage, inducing minor into prostitution, lewd and lascivious behavior or acts, dissemination of harmful matter to minors, exhibiting nudity, or crime against nature: time limit depends on when the victim reaches 16 years of age, or crime is reported, whichever is earlier.
  • Any other felony: 6-year time limit.
Misdemeanors 6-year time limit.
Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
  • Indecent assault and battery on child under 14 during commission of certain offenses, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Indecent assault and battery on child under 14, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Indecent assault and battery on child under 14 by certain previously convicted offenders, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Rape of child during commission of certain offenses by use of force, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Rape of child through use of force by previously convicted offender: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Assault of child, or Conspiracy to commit crime/accessory to crime: No time limit, but any indictment or complaint found and filed more than 27 years after the crime shall be supported by independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation, and shall not consist exclusively of the opinions of mental health professionals.
  • Indecent assault and battery on child; rape/abuse/assault of child; kidnapping of minor; sexual offenses such as inducing minor into prostitution, lewd and lascivious behavior or acts, dissemination of harmful matter to minors, exhibiting nudity, or crime against nature: time limit depends on when the victim reaches 16 years of age, or crime is reported, whichever is earlier.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run When defendant is not usually and publicly a resident within Massachusetts.
Other N/A

The idea behind criminal statutes of limitation is to ensure criminal trials (and possible subsequent convictions) are based on evidence that has not deteriorated over time. Testimonial evidence (officer statements, eyewitness accounts, etc.) and physical evidence (fingerprints, DNA, etc.) can fade or be lost over time. Therefore, it is better to have a criminal trial as soon as possible after an incident has occurred. Longer or indefinite statutes of limitation attempt to balance the interest in fair trials with the seriousness of the offense. The thought is that criminals should not be able to avoid the consequences for serious crimes just by waiting out the authorities.

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, this will pause, or “toll," the statutory clock. The clock resumes running, so to speak, if the criminal reenters the state.

Related Resources for Massachusetts Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:

Any criminal charge is a serious matter, and criminal statutes can vary depending on your jurisdiction. If you have been charged with a crime, you can contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss your case. You can also visit FindLaw's Criminal Law Basics for additional details.

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