Our Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain the Statute of Limitations in Criminal Cases

You must raise all your defenses if you've been charged with a crime in Virginia. One powerful strategy, if applicable, that may help get the charges dismissed is that the statute of limitations expired in your criminal case. At The Wilson Law Firm, our experienced Manassas defense attorneys believe you have numerous rights that protect you and deserve a knowledgeable legal approach to your defense. Here’s what you should know.

Understanding the Virginia Statute of Limitations in Criminal Cases 

A statute of limitations is a law that sets the time limit within which criminal charges may be initiated against someone after a crime was committed. Its primary purpose is to protect defendants by ensuring prosecutions occur while evidence and witnesses are still available. Additionally, it prevents individuals from living indefinitely under the threat of prosecution for minor offenses, promoting finality and closure in legal matters. 

However, in Virginia, the statute of limitations guidelines vary depending on the nature of the offense and whether you’re charged with a felony or a misdemeanor crime. statute-of-limitations-wording-in-red-and-black

Under Virginia Code § 19.2-8, most misdemeanor offenses have a one-year statute of limitations to prosecute an individual for charges such as DUI, hit and run, and reckless driving. Exceptions to this statute include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Petit larceny. These crimes—such as shoplifting, where the value of the goods is under $1,000—carry a statute of limitations of five years.
  • Attempt to produce an abortion. This offense has a two-year statute of limitations.

There’s no statute of limitations for felony cases—this means prosecution can occur at any time after the commission of the crime.

When the Statute of Limitations Timeline Begins

In most cases, the deadline to prosecute starts running on the date the crime was committed. However, exceptions to this rule include the following:

  • The crime is a misdemeanor sex offense against a minor. Then, the statute of limitations begins when the victim turns 18.
  • The accused avoids arrest. If you’re actively avoiding arrest, the statute of limitations may be tolled until your apprehension.

At The Wilson Law Firm, our skilled criminal defense lawyers understand the ticking clock, and believe that if your case warrants it, it’s critical to raise the statute of limitations defense—or lose the opportunity to do so. It’s just one of the many strategies we employ to identify all possible avenues of defense that may go unnoticed by other lawyers and achieve better results for you.

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