How Long After an Alleged Offense Can The State File Criminal Charges?


What is a Statute of Limitations?

A Statute of Limitations is a law that limits how long the State has to file a criminal charge. The time period that the Statute runs is usually measured from the day of the commission of the alleged offense to the day criminal charges were filed. In the event that the State fails to charge the crime within the time given by the Statute of Limitations, the State will be forced to dismiss the case.

In Idaho there is a statute for felonies, and a statute for misdemeanors. Idaho Code 19-401-19-402 governs the time limits that a felony may be filed within, and Idaho Code 19-403 governs misdemeanors.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Misdemeanor charge?

In general a misdemeanor criminal charge must be filed by the State within one (1) year of the commission of the offense. There are exceptions to this rule, the most notable exceptions being a charge of failure to report child abuse (4 year statute of limitations) and misuse of public funds (5 year statute of limitations). There is also a statute of limitations that governs only fish and game violations, but there is some indication that the fish and game statute of limitation is ambiguous given that Idaho’s general statute of limitations governs all misdemeanors.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Felony charge?

Some felonies have no statute of limitations, meaning the State of Idaho can bring the charge at any time, no matter how long after the fact. These charges include murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape as defined by 18-1601(3)-(9) and 18-6108(3)-(7), sexual abuse of a child, lewd conduct with a child, or acts of terrorism.

All other felonies must be brought within 5 years of the commission of the offense.

Are there exceptions to Idaho’s Statute of Limitations?

There are exceptions to the rule that untimely charges must be dismissed. There are ways that the Statute can be ‘tolled’. What this means is there are things that can occur that will cause the time limit to stop running. For example, Idaho Code 19-404 ‘tolls’ the statute while a defendant is ‘absent from the state’. So if the Defendant left the State a year after the alleged offense, and then came back 8 years later, the State of Idaho could still charge the defendant with ‘felony grand theft‘ since the Statute had been ‘tolled’ for 8 years, and so had only run for 1 year. The State still has 4 years left to file the charges.

What should I do if I think I have been charged after the time period has run out?

If you think you have a case where you have been charged after the Statute of Limitations has run, you should hire a criminal defense attorney to file a motion to dismiss your case. There are many different laws governing this complex statute, and you will need to consult an attorney about your particular case.