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South Carolina Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

Crime happens, and when it does, it is up to prosecutors to file criminal charges and begin the legal prosecution process. Most states have a criminal statute of limitations that puts a time limit on how long prosecutors have to file charges after crimes occur. Generally, these limits vary depending on the type of crime involved, with misdemeanor charges having shorter time limits than felony charges.

The Palmetto State, however, has no statute of limitations for any criminal prosecution, meaning prosecutors can bring charges whenever they have sufficient evidence, no matter how much time has passed. Here are the basics of criminal statute of limitations laws in South Carolina.

Criminal Statutes of Limitations in South Carolina

As noted above, South Carolina's criminal code does not include statute of limitations laws.

State South Carolina
Topic Criminal statute of limitations
Definition A statute of limitations tells you the time frame when the prosecution must bring a charge for a crime. Under South Carolina law, there is no statute of limitations for any crime.
Code Sections There is no criminal statute of limitations in South Carolina.
Felonies A case for any felony can be started at any time.
Misdemeanors A case for any misdemeanor can be started at any time.
Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim n/a
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run n/a
Other  

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 a South Carolina defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

How Criminal Statutes of Limitations Work

In other states, the goal of criminal statutes of limitations is to make sure that criminal trials are fair and based on the best possible evidence. Evidence of a crime, whether it's physical evidence like fingerprints or DNA or it's testimonial evidence like officer statements or eyewitness accounts, can fade over time or become unusable or lost entirely.

Other states' statutes of limitations vary in length to balance the interest in conducting accurate criminal trials with the interest in prosecuting the most serious offenses, while also not hanging criminal charges over a person's head indefinitely.

With this in mind, the prosecutorial “clock” on most statutes of limitations only run while the alleged criminal remains in the state where the crime occurred. If the suspect is out of state or otherwise hiding from the authorities, the statutory clock will pause, and will resume running when and if the criminal reenters the state. The idea is to prevent criminals from avoiding the consequences for serious crimes.

Without a criminal statute of limitations, South Carolina authorities have no such concern.

Research the Law

South Carolina Criminal Statute of Limitations: Related Resources

Charged With a Crime in South Carolina? Contact a Defense Attorney

Any criminal charge should be taken seriously. For more articles and resources on this topic, you can visit FindLaw's Criminal Law Basics. If you have been charged with a crime or would like legal assistance with a criminal matter, you can contact a South Carolina criminal defense attorney.

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