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Wisconsin Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

State criminal statute of limitations laws limit how long after a crime has been committed prosecutors have to file criminal charges. Wisconsin, like most states, has different limits depending on the type of crime involved. For example, misdemeanor charges have a three-year time limit for filing, while most felony charges have a six-year statute of limitations. There is no statutory limit on murder charges.

Criminal Statutes of Limitation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin's criminal statute of limitation laws and related matters are highlighted in the chart below.

State Wisconsin
Topic Criminal Statute of Limitations
Definition The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Wisconsin law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from 3 years to no limit.
Code Section Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 939.74
Felonies
  • Attempted or committed first-degree homicide (intentional or reckless), murder, second-degree intentional homicide, or attempted or committed first-degree sexual assault: none
  • Second-degree reckless homicide: the later of 15 years or extended up to one year with DNA identification of a probable perpetrator
  • Second- or third-degree sexual assault: the later of 10 years or extended up to one year with DNA identification of a probable perpetrator
  • Criminal misappropriation: From 1 year to as longs as 11 years after discovering the loss
  • All others: 6 years or extended up to one year with DNA identification of a probable perpetrator, whichever is later
Misdemeanors 3 years
Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
  • Attempted or committed first-degree sexual assault, repeated sexual assault of the same child: none
  • Second-degree sexual assault, at least 3 acts of first- or second-degree sexual assault against the same child, intentional physical abuse or repeated acts of physical abuse against the same child, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, incest, sexual enticement, computer-facilitated sex crimes, prostitution, or sexual assault by school staff or person who works or volunteers with children: Before the victim is 45-years old or extended up to one year with DNA identification of a probable perpetrator, whichever is later
  • Reckless physical abuse, mental abuse, enticement that causes mental or bodily harm, or giving a child illegal drugs: Before the victim is 26-years old or extended up to one year with DNA identification of a probable perpetrator, whichever is later
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run When the perpetrator is not publicly a resident within Wisconsin or when a prosecution for the alleged crime is pending.
Other Adultery: 3 years

What is the Purpose of a Time Limit?

Criminal statutes of limitation are designed to ensure that criminal trials are based on the best available evidence. Physical evidence (like fingerprints and DNA) and testimonial evidence (like officer statements and eyewitness accounts) can deteriorate or be lost entirely over time. The length of particular statutes of limitation seeks to balance the interest in prosecuting serious offenses with the interest in conducting fair and accurate criminal trials.

How is the Statute of Limitations Tolled?

Time limits for filing criminal charges run only when the suspect is visible and within the state where the crime was committed.

Tolling a statue of the limitations suspends the running of the time limit. If the suspect is out of state or otherwise in hiding, the statutory clock will pause and will resume running only when and if the criminal reenters the state. This prevents criminals from avoiding the consequences for serious crimes by simply running, hiding, and waiting out the authorities.

Related Resources for Wisconsin Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws:

Criminal statutes can vary depending on the crime and the jurisdiction, and criminal charges are a very serious matter. If you would like legal assistance with a criminal matter, you can contact a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney in your area. You can also visit FindLaw's Criminal Law Basics for more articles and resources.

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