What is the Statute of Limitations and Can it Get Your Case Dismissed?

In the past week, I have had two cases dismissed because the state missed the statute of limitations deadline. You’ve probably heard about the statute of limitations, but you may not be sure how long it is or how it works. The statute of limitations enables you to have a case dismissed if the state takes too long to charge you with a crime. The length of time varies based on what crime the state is charging you with. If the state files a case against you after that, your attorney can file a motion to dismiss letting the court know that you were charged after the statute of limitations passed.

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Statute of limitations issues are not that common, but can come up when the state is waiting on something before making a decision to file. In drug cases, the district attorney’s office will not file the information or get a case indicted until they have received lab results on the drugs. In these cases, the drugs will be sent to a lab to confirm that the substance is the drug they believe that it is and to confirm the weight of the drugs. In DWI cases, the state won’t file on the case while they’re still waiting for blood results on the case. Sometimes in these cases, someone drops the ball and the results either don’t come back from the lab or they don’t get properly logged. When that happens, the case may linger long enough to where the limitations period passes before anything is noticed. It happened in two cases that I had just this week.

The limitations period is not for them to have a trial, sentence you, or even arrest you. It’s only for them to formally charge you. In misdemeanors, that is when a document called the information is filed. In a felony, it’s when your case is indicted by a grand jury. If you have a case from three years ago, it’s not going to go away just because the limitations period has passed as long as they have formally charged you with the crime.

The reason for the statute of limitations is to keep the state from letting cases linger. If they are going to charge you with a crime, they should do it within a reasonable period of time. It also prevents you from being charged with a crime when the evidence you may use to defend yourself is no longer available.

In Texas, the statute of limitations varies based on what you’re being charged with and for some crimes there is no statute of limitations. Unless the crime is specifically listed, the statute of limitations in a misdemeanor is two years and for a felony is three years. There are also some crimes which do not have any limitations period like murder certain sexual assault cases. I’ll include the list of crimes with specific statutes of limitations at the bottom.

If you have any questions about the statute of limitations in Texas or if you’re being charged with a crime in the San Antonio are. Call me at 210-900-2806 or click the button below to schedule a free consultation where we can discuss your case and start preparing a plan for you to get the best result possible.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 12 – Limitation

Art. 12.01.  FELONIES.  Except as provided in Article 12.03, felony indictments may be presented within these limits, and not afterward:

  • (1)  no limitation:
    • (A)  murder and manslaughter;
    • (B)  sexual assault under Section 22.011(a)(2), Penal Code, or aggravated sexual assault under Section 22.021(a)(1)(B), Penal Code;
    • (C)  sexual assault, if:
      • (i)  during the investigation of the offense biological matter is collected and the matter:
        • (a)  has not yet been subjected to forensic DNA testing; or
        • (b)  has been subjected to forensic DNA testing and the testing results show that the matter does not match the victim or any other person whose identity is readily ascertained; or
      • (ii)  probable cause exists to believe that the defendant has committed the same or a similar sex offense against five or more victims;
    • (D)  continuous sexual abuse of young child or children under Section 21.02, Penal Code;
    • (E)  indecency with a child under Section 21.11, Penal Code;
    • (F)  an offense involving leaving the scene of an accident under Section 550.021, Transportation Code, if the accident resulted in the death of a person;
    • (G)  trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(7) or (8), Penal Code;
    • (H)  continuous trafficking of persons under Section 20A.03, Penal Code; or
    • (I)  compelling prostitution under Section 43.05(a)(2), Penal Code;
  • (2)  ten years from the date of the commission of the offense:
    • (A)  theft of any estate, real, personal or mixed, by an executor, administrator, guardian or trustee, with intent to defraud any creditor, heir, legatee, ward, distributee, beneficiary or settlor of a trust interested in such estate;
    • (B)  theft by a public servant of government property over which the public servant exercises control in the public servant’s official capacity;
    • (C)  forgery or the uttering, using or passing of forged instruments;
    • (D)  injury to an elderly or disabled individual punishable as a felony of the first degree under Section 22.04, Penal Code;
    • (E)  sexual assault, except as provided by Subdivision (1) or (7);
    • (F)  arson;
    • (G)  trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(1), (2), (3), or (4), Penal Code; or
    • (H)  compelling prostitution under Section 43.05(a)(1), Penal Code;
  • (3)  seven years from the date of the commission of the offense:
    • (A)  misapplication of fiduciary property or property of a financial institution;
    • (B)  securing execution of document by deception;
    • (C)  a felony violation under Chapter 162, Tax Code;
    • (D)  false statement to obtain property or credit under Section 32.32, Penal Code;
    • (E)  money laundering;
    • (F)  credit card or debit card abuse under Section 32.31, Penal Code;
    • (G)  fraudulent use or possession of identifying information under Section 32.51, Penal Code;
    • (H)  exploitation of a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual under Section 32.53, Penal Code;
    • (I)  health care fraud under Section 35A.02, Penal Code; or
    • (J)  bigamy under Section 25.01, Penal Code, except as provided by Subdivision (6);
  • (4)  five years from the date of the commission of the offense:
    • (A)  theft or robbery;
    • (B)  except as provided by Subdivision (5), kidnapping or burglary;
    • (C)  injury to an elderly or disabled individual that is not punishable as a felony of the first degree under Section 22.04, Penal Code;
    • (D)  abandoning or endangering a child; or
    • (E)  insurance fraud;
  • (5)  if the investigation of the offense shows that the victim is younger than 17 years of age at the time the offense is committed, 20 years from the 18th birthday of the victim of one of the following offenses:
    • (A)  sexual performance by a child under Section 43.25, Penal Code;
    • (B)  aggravated kidnapping under Section 20.04(a)(4), Penal Code, if the defendant committed the offense with the intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually; or
    • (C)  burglary under Section 30.02, Penal Code, if the offense is punishable under Subsection (d) of that section and the defendant committed the offense with the intent to commit an offense described by Subdivision (1)(B) or (D) of this article or Paragraph (B) of this subdivision;
  • (6)  ten years from the 18th birthday of the victim of the offense:
    • (A)  trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(5) or (6), Penal Code;
    • (B)  injury to a child under Section 22.04, Penal Code; or
    • (C)  bigamy under Section 25.01, Penal Code, if the investigation of the offense shows that the person, other than the legal spouse of the defendant, whom the defendant marries or purports to marry or with whom the defendant lives under the appearance of being married is younger than 18 years of age at the time the offense is committed;
  • (7)  two years from the date the offense was discoveredsexual assault punishable as a state jail felony under Section 22.011(f)(2), Penal Code; or
  • (8)  three years from the date of the commission of the offenseall other felonies. Art. 12.02. 

Art 12.02 MISDEMEANORS. 

(a)  An indictment or information for any Class A or Class B misdemeanor may be presented within two years from the date of the commission of the offense, and not afterward.

(b)  A complaint or information for any Class C misdemeanor may be presented within two years from the date of the commission of the offense, and not afterward.

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