Prosecutors have time limits for filing criminal charges against defendants, called the statute of limitations. While the intent of these laws is make sure charges are filed while evidence is still intact, murder charges typically have no time limit. Ohio's criminal statute of limitations laws allow six years for most crimes (with no limit for murder), while sex crimes, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, arson, and some other serious crimes have a 20-year statute of limitations.
The following chart summarizes Ohio criminal statute of limitations laws and further information on the subject can be found below. See FindLaw's Criminal Law Basics section for more articles and resources.
|Felonies||Murder or aggravated murder: none; others: 6 yrs.; fraud or breach of fiduciary duty: within 1 yr. of discovery of offense; official misconduct: within 2 yrs.; manslaughter, kidnapping rape, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, compelling prostitution, arson, robbery, burglary, aggravated riot, felonious or aggravated assault of a peace officer, felonious assault, or conspiracy or attempt to commit any of the above: 20 yrs.|
|Misdemeanors||2 yrs.; minor misdemeanor: 6 mos.|
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run||Absent state or conceals identity or whereabouts or undiscovered corpus delicti; prosecution pending for same conduct|
Purpose of Statutes of Limitations in Criminal Cases
Some people may believe that no matter how much time has passed since a crime was committed, the criminal should always be able to be held accountable for his or her bad acts. However, the purpose of criminal statutes of limitations is not to let criminals go. Rather, the laws are meant to protect the innocent, and give some efficiency to the criminal process.
Even though the prosecution is required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, a long time between allegedly committing a crime and the prosecution pressing charges can have a detrimental effect on a person's ability to defend his or herself. Even though lack of evidence may hurt the prosecution's case against the defendant, the defendant may also lose evidence that shows that they did not commit the crime. Having photographs, receipts, or records that prove that someone did not commit a crime can save both the state and the defendant a lot of time and money. Hopefully, a delay in prosecution would not put an innocent person in jail, and having exculpating documents at the outset may prevent the prosecution from pressing charges against the wrong person in the first place.
When does the time limit run?
The time limit for prosecuting a case begins when the state knows, or should have known that the crime was committed.
Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors
The state of Ohio has two years to prosecute a misdemeanor. If the misdemeanor is a "minor misdemeanor" the state only has six months to bring the case.
Statute of Limitations for Felonies
The statute of limitations for all felonies is not the same. The following list provides the statute of limitations for commonly known felonies.
Murder or Aggravated Murder
There is no time limit to prosecute a murder case in Ohio.
Fraud or Breach of Fiduciary Duty
The prosecution must bring its case within one year of the discovery of the offense.
The state has two years after discovering "official misconduct" to charge a defendant with committing that crime.
Other Violent Felonies
For many other violent felonies, Ohio has twenty years to make its case. Those crimes include:
Under Suspicion for a Crime? Consider Getting Legal Help Today
The statute of limitations can be very complex and hard to follow. If you need to know about your protections under Ohio's laws, then the best thing that you can do is to talk to an attorney about the statute's application to your case. Consider speaking with an Ohio criminal defense attorney today.
Contact a qualified attorney.