The criminal "statute of limitations" is a law limiting how long after a crime occurred a person can face charges. Each state determines its own statutes of limitations. Some serious crimes have no time limit for prosecution in almost all states. Some states only have no limit for crimes like murder or sex crimes against children. Other states don't limit the time for prosecuting any felony. West Virginia falls in the latter camp, with no time limits for felonies.
Statutes of limitations are meant to ensure that state prosecutors charge suspects in a timely manner, and while evidence (including witness testimony) is relatively fresh. The "clock" is put on hold if a suspect is out of state or otherwise evading law enforcement.
West Virginia Criminal Statute of Limitations at a Glance
The following chart lists the criminal statute of limitations in West Virginia.
|Code Section||West Virginia Code Section 61-11-9: Limitation of Prosecution|
|Felonies||There’s no time limit for prosecuting felonies in West Virginia.
However, if a person is charged with a felony which includes a lesser offense (a misdemeanor) after the statute of limitations for the misdemeanor has run, he or she can’t be convicted of just that misdemeanor and not the greater crime (the felony).
|Misdemeanors||Perjury charges must be brought within three years of the perjury. Any other misdemeanors can only be prosecuted within one year.|
|When Does a Prosecution Start?||Generally, a prosecution is considered to have started when a complaint or information has been filed or the grand jury indicts a person, and a warrant has been issued.|
|Acts During Which Statute of Limitations Doesn’t Run||If the indictment is stolen, lost, or destroyed, then the clock doesn’t run. However, with the current computer systems in place, this could be less likely to happen than it may have been in the past.
The statute of limitations may be suspended or “tolled” for other reasons, such as a defendant runs away from the state to avoid prosecution.
Note: State laws are updated all the time, usually when newly signed legislation is enacted but sometimes through higher court decisions or other means. Please contact a West Virginia criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these criminal laws.
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