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What is a Statute of Limitations?

April 7th, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Illinois criminal defense attorney, Illinois defense lawyer, Illinois criminal law,When the news reports on crimes that happened a long time ago, they often say that a person cannot be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations. However most people do not not actually know what a statute of limitations is, why it exists, or when it applies. They can actually be quite complicated so if you find yourself charged with a crime that is alleged to have happened years ago, you will need the specific advice of a criminal defense attorney.

What is a Statute of Limitations and Why Does it Exist?

A statute of limitations is a statute that limits the time frame in which a certain cause of action can be brought. A cause of action could be something like a slip and fall lawsuit or a sexual harassment complaint, or it could be a criminal charge. Every state has different statutes of limitations and most states, including Illinois, have different statutes of limitations for different crimes. The purpose of these laws is two-fold. First of all, a statute of limitations prevents people from having to live in fear their entire lives of being sued or criminally charged for something that happened years or even decades earlier. Second, and most importantly, it protects everyone’s right to have a fair trial on the matter. Having a trial soon after an alleged wrong, when witnesses are still alive, available, and have clear memories, is vastly preferable when compared to the alternative. Charging a person with a crime decades after it was committed nearly guarantees that he or she will not be able to establish an alibi or find other witnesses even if he or she is absolutely innocent.

What is Illinois’ Criminal Statute of Limitations?

The criminal statute of limitations in Illinois depends upon the crime to be charged. If a person is charged with certain crimes that result in the death of another, concealment of homicidal death, treason, various types of arson, forgery, certain child pornography charges or certain sexual offenses, there is no statute of limitations. There are prolonged and complicated statutes of limitations that apply to many offenses that involve child victims, particularly offenses that are sexual in nature. Some crimes have their own specific statute of limitations. As a general rule though, if none of these circumstances apply, the statute of limitations usually mandates that felony prosecutions must be commenced within three years of the date the crime was committed, and misdemeanor prosecutions must be commenced within one year and six months.

One thing that is important to note is that while these are the current statutes of limitations, the laws on this matter change. In particular the laws have changed regarding the statute of limitation for certain sex offenses. So if a crime occurred decades ago and the statutory time limit ran out before the statute of limitations was changed to make it longer or non-existent, then a person may have a statute of limitations defense if a prosecutor were to try to charge the person for that crime now.

Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley

When you are being investigated for a crime or have been arrested, you need help. You need an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley today at (847)394-3200. We will fight for the best possible result in your situation.

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