A period of time for which a prosecution must be commenced for an offense is known as a statute of limitations. A prosecution is commenced for a crime when an indictment is found, whereas a non-indictable offense, such as a disorderly persons offense, is commenced through the issuance of a warrant or other process. If the time period passes without prosecution, the individual responsible for the criminal offense cannot be charged. In certain cases, the statute of limitations can be stalled and resumed at a later date.
There are many aspects to the statute of limitations laws that can be somewhat difficult to understand. Some crimes don’t have a statute of limitations. Some vary based on the level of offense (major or minor) and if there are other charges against the defendant for the same crime with an entirely different prosecution.
Various Rules on New Jersey Statute of Limitations
In New Jersey, some crimes—such as manslaughter, homicide and rape—don’t have a statute of limitations, meaning there is no expiration date on the charges. The statute of limitations begins to run when the crime is committed with the exception being when the prosecution discovers physical evidence such as fingerprints and through DNA testing. In that circumstance, the statute of limitations starts to run when the evidence was acquired by the prosecution.
If a person is charged with a disorderly persons offense, the prosecution must begin within one year of that offense. The prosecution begins when the warrant or complaint is issued to charge the defendant. This is in effect contingent on the warrant or process not being subject to an unreasonable delay. If there is a reduction of the charges, the statute of limitations will still be in effect based on the more serious charge even if the lower offense’s statute of limitations would have expired.
The statute of limitations for an indictable crime is five years in New Jersey.
If the defendant flees from justice, the statute of limitation is suspended or tolled (the legal term for delayed) while the individual is considered to be in flight.
Statute of Limitations for Crimes in New Jersey
The statute of limitations for certain crimes can be adjusted based on the circumstances. Some examples are:
- Bribery and official misconduct has a statute of limitations of 7 years
- Intentional causing of an avalanche; a building collapse; the release of hazardous material, destructive substances, poison gas; a flood; and an explosion among other similar acts has a statute of limitations of 10 years
- If there is a crime of sexual assault, endangering the welfare of children, and/or criminal sexual contact, the following applies: with a victim under age 18, the prosecution must begin two years after the offense was discovered or within 5 years after the victim turns 18, whichever comes last.
Statute of Limitations can be Stalled
The statute of limitations are stalled (tolled) if the defendant runs from apprehension and the case will remain in that status until such time when the defendant is caught. If the same defendant is in the process of being prosecuted for the same crime in New Jersey, the statute of limitations for the new offense of that same crime will be frozen so the charges can restart after the case the defendant is being prosecuted for is completed.
Consult an Attorney Regarding Statute of Limitations
If you have been charged with a crime and the possibility exists that the New Jersey statute of limitations on that crime have been violated, you may be able to have the charges dismissed. Even if that’s not likely, you should have qualified legal representation to help you understand the legal process when it comes to statutes of limitations. The law firm of Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey is experienced in all aspects of New Jersey criminal law and can help you with your case.
If you have been charged with a crime in any New Jersey town from Brick to Asbury Park to Long Branch or in Monmouth County or Ocean County, Villani & DeLuca can help you. Don’t make the mistake of being prosecuted for a crime when it’s a possibility that the New Jersey statute of limitations have expired and your legal liability for the offense is no longer applicable. Call Villani & DeLuca to discuss your case today.