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Federal Statute Of Limitations

By Spodek Law Group | February 14, 2023

The Federal Statute of Limitations

The U.S. Constitution fiercely protects the right of every American citizen to a “speedy trial” in the face of criminal allegations. This fundamental right is enshrined in our laws for two paramount reasons. Firstly, as the evidence and memories of events fade with time, a speedy trial guarantees a fair trial. Secondly, it bars the government from endlessly harassing an accused individual over a supposed crime.

Protection Through Statutes of Limitations

To defend the right to a speedy trial, both state and federal governments have established “statutes of limitations” – a limited time frame within which a court action must be brought after an alleged crime has taken place.

Defining the Statute of Limitations for Federal Crimes

The statute of limitations (SOL) for any crime is a legal rule that sets a deadline for the federal government to initiate a formal prosecution. If the deadline is missed, the government is forever barred from doing so. For federal crimes committed within the United States, the SOL is defined by 18 U.S.C. § 3282, stating that the SOL is five years, “except as otherwise expressly provided by law.”

Bringing Charges Within the Time Window

In simple terms, if someone is to be charged with a federal offense, the indictment must be issued no later than five years from the date the alleged crime was committed. Nonetheless, many federal statutes provide for different SOLs that are longer than the general five-year limit.

The SOL as an Affirmative Defense

It is crucial to note that the SOL is an affirmative defense, meaning that the defense must raise the issue and move to dismiss the indictment because the time has expired. If the defense counsel fails to raise the SOL issue before or during the trial, the defense is waived, and a conviction could stand.

The Time Limit for Prosecution

The statute of limitations is a legal rule that sets a specific time limit for prosecuting someone for a crime, or suing someone, in the case of civil actions such as personal injury cases. The time window generally begins from the moment the alleged crime was committed. Prosecutors must bring official charges within the time frame set by the SOL, or the defendant can get the charges dismissed.

The Importance of Understanding the SOL

Understanding the length of the SOL period and how it can be used as an affirmative defense is incredibly valuable for anyone facing federal criminal charges.

The Unforgiving Reality of the Standard Federal Statute of Limitations

As the clock ticks, time is running out for those accused of federal crimes. By law, the statute of limitations for non-capital federal offenses is set at a ruthless five years from the moment the crime is committed. This extends to the majority of non-violent federal crimes unless a different time frame is specified.

As outlined in 18 U.S.C. 3282, “no person shall be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any offense, not capital unless the indictment is found or the information is instituted within five years next after such offense shall have been committed.” But beware, there is a catch. The phrase “except as otherwise expressly provided by law” holds great significance, as there are exceptions to this rule. Certain federal crimes carry a statute of limitations longer than five years, while others may see their time window suspended or extended. And for the most severe crimes, there is no statute of limitations at all.

Subsection (b) DNA Profile Indictment states that “In any indictment for an offense under chapter 109A for which the identity of the accused is unknown, it shall be sufficient to describe the accused as an individual whose name is unknown, but who has a particular DNA profile.” The term “DNA profile” refers to a set of unique DNA identification characteristics

Federal Crimes with Longer Statutes of Limitations

Federal law has deemed certain offenses so heinous that they warrant an extended time frame for prosecution. Whether it be due to the severity of the crime or the need for federal prosecutors to build a stronger case, these exceptions to the standard five-year statute of limitations should not be taken lightly.

Some common examples of federal crimes with longer statutes of limitations include:

Federal tax evasion (26 U.S.C. 7201): six years

Failure to file a tax return (26 U.S.C. 7203): six years

Major fraud against the federal government totaling $1 million or more (18 U.S.C. 1031): seven years

Mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341): ten years

Wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343): ten years

Bank fraud (18 U.S.C. 1344): ten years

Conspiracy to commit a federal crime (18 U.S.C. 371): ten years

Non-violent violations of certain federal terrorism laws: eight years

Embezzling from a federal financial institution (18 U.S.C. 657): ten years

Receiving gifts for loans (18 U.S.C. 215): ten years

Falsifying bank records (18 U.S.C. 1005): ten years

Immigration crimes: ten years

Arson (18 U.S.C. 81): ten years

Theft of major artwork (18 U.S.C. 3294): 20 years

It’s important to note that these are just a few examples of federal crimes with longer statutes of limitations and the SOL for federal crimes can vary greatly depending on the specific offense. It’s always a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to understand the SOL for a particular crime and the possible defenses available.

Additionally, it’s important to understand that the SOL is not a bar to investigation or the gathering of evidence. Law enforcement can still investigate a crime and gather evidence, even if the SOL has passed. However, if the SOL has passed, the government is barred from bringing formal charges and prosecuting the case.

In conclusion, the statute of limitations for federal crimes is an important aspect of criminal law that sets a deadline for the government to bring formal charges. Understanding the SOL for a particular crime and how it can be used as a defense is critical for anyone facing federal criminal charges.

Understanding the Federal Statute of Limitations with Spodek Law Group

What You Need to Know About the Federal Statute of Limitations

The federal statute of limitations is a crucial factor in criminal cases that determines the time limit for filing charges in court. Failing to file before the statute of limitations expires results in a case being barred from prosecution. The purpose of this law is to protect the integrity of evidence and ensure that both parties have enough time to prepare a compelling case.

The Different Types of Federal Crimes with Statutes of Limitations

Federal crimes fall into different categories based on the severity of the offense, and the statute of limitations varies for each category. For example, most federal offenses have a statute of limitations of five years from the time the offense occurred. However, there are serious crimes that do not have a statute of limitations and can be prosecuted at any time. These include crimes where death is the punishment, terrorism-related crimes that result in serious bodily injury or create a risk of death or serious injury, and crimes involving minor victims of sexual abuse or exploitation.

Federal Crimes with Longer or Shorter Statutes of Limitations

Apart from these serious crimes, many federal offenses have statutes of limitations that are longer or shorter than the general five-year rule. For instance, crimes involving terrorism have an eight-year statute of limitations, while major fraud against the United States has a seven-year statute of limitations. Other offenses with longer statutes of limitations include wartime fraud, child kidnap, sexual or physical abuse, and theft of major artwork. On the other hand, some crimes have shorter statutes of limitations, such as tax crimes, which have a three-year statute of limitations, and criminal contempt, which has a one-year statute of limitations.

Delaying and Suspending Statutes of Limitations

In some instances, the statute of limitations can be paused or delayed. For example, in cases where DNA is involved, the statute of limitations is delayed until the DNA can be used to identify the wrongdoer. Moreover, the use of DNA in an aggravated sexual abuse case to procure an indictment for the DNA profile suspends the statute of limitations. If an indictment or information is dismissed, the government gets an additional six months on the statute of limitations. When the information or evidence needed for the prosecution is located in a foreign area, the court is able to suspend the statute of limitations. Lastly, any person fleeing from justice shall not benefit from the statute of limitations.

Trust the Experienced Attorneys at Spodek Law Group

Understanding the federal statute of limitations can be a complicated matter, especially when dealing with criminal cases. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it’s essential to seek the help of a qualified and experienced attorney who can guide you through the process. The team at Spodek Law Group, led by Attorney Todd Spodek, has extensive experience in handling federal criminal cases and can provide you with the legal representation you need. Contact Spodek Law Group today to schedule a consultation.

Understanding the Importance of the Statute of Limitations in Federal Crimes

The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a speedy trial when accused of a crime, and for a good reason. Not only does it ensure that the trial is fair, but it also prevents the government from indefinitely harassing an accused party over an alleged crime.

As a result, state and federal governments have established “statutes of limitations” to protect this right. A statute of limitations sets a specific time limit for prosecuting someone for a crime, with the time window generally beginning from when the alleged crime was committed.

What Does the Law Say?

For those suspected or accused of federal crimes, prosecutors must bring official charges within the time window established by the statute of limitations. If the time limit expires, the defendant can get the charges dismissed. Therefore, understanding how long this period lasts and how it can be used as an affirmative defense can be incredibly helpful for anyone charged with a federal crime.

The Standard Federal Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for non-capital federal crimes is five years from when the alleged crime was committed, as defined under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 3282. This extends to most non-violent federal offenses and any offense for which a different time frame has not been identified.

However, there are certain federal crimes for which there is a specific statute of limitations extending longer than five years. The list of exceptions is too long to cover all of them here, but some common examples include federal tax evasion, major fraud against the federal government, and theft of major artwork.

Extension or Suspension of SOL

There are situations where the five-year statute of limitations can be extended or suspended. For example, if a defendant flees to avoid prosecution, the clock may be stopped until that person is apprehended or returns to U.S. jurisdiction. Additionally, the statute of limitations may be extended in cases where prosecutors need proof from a foreign country.

Federal Crimes with No Statute of Limitations

Certain serious or violent federal offenses can be prosecuted at any time and have no statute of limitations. These include any federal “capital” offense, acts of terrorism that result in death or serious bodily injury, and federal sex crimes in which the victim is a minor.

The Statute of Limitations as an Affirmative Defense

While the statute of limitations does not mean prosecutors may not bring charges against you after the expiration, it does mean that you can use the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense to challenge the prosecution’s delay and move for a dismissal. This is especially useful when a case has been pending for years, evidence has been lost or destroyed, or witnesses are no longer available to testify.

Practicing federal criminal defense law requires advanced legal knowledge and a deep understanding of the law. The Spodek Law Group, led by experienced attorney Todd Spodek, has decades of experience and knows how to identify any issues in a federal indictment, including the expiration of a statute of limitation.

Legal rules like the statute of limitations demonstrate how many defenses and strategies experienced attorneys consider on behalf of their clients. Contact the Spodek Law Group for an initial case examination by phone or use the contact form. They offer legal representation on federal criminal matters across the United States.

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