The Statute of Limitations (SOL) is a time limit set by law within which the state must charge a person with a crime. The SOL in Florida varies based on the crime’s type and severity.
Here is a brief overview of the SOL in Florida for some common crimes:
- First-degree murder: No SOL
- Other felonies: 4 years
- First-degree misdemeanors: 2 years
- Second-degree misdemeanors: 1 year
- Criminal Traffic Offenses:
- DUI with serious bodily injury: 4 years
- Other criminal traffic offenses: 2 years
New evidence may extend or revive the SOL for certain crimes, such as sexual offenses.
The Statute of Limitations Defense
A criminal defense strategy often includes a Statute of Limitations defense. Unless the state charges a person within the SOL, he or she cannot be convicted of the crime. If the SOL has expired in a case, a criminal defense attorney can use it as a defense in court.
An SOL does not guarantee immunity from prosecution, however. Some circumstances may result in a tolling or suspension of the SOL, such as when the defendant is out of state or when the victim is under 18 years old.
Tolling or Suspension of Statute of Limitations
The Statute of Limitations may be tolled or suspended if the defendant is out of the state. This means that the time limit for charging the defendant with a crime may be extended while the defendant is not present in the state. This is because the state is not in a position to arrest and prosecute the defendant if they are outside of the state’s boundaries. The SOL clock may be paused until the defendant returns to the state, at which point the state may have a new time limit within which to charge the defendant.
If the victim of a crime is under 18 years old at the time of the offense, the SOL may be tolled or suspended. This means that the time limit for charging the defendant with the crime may be extended. The reason for this is that minors are often not able to report crimes until they are adults. By doing this, the state has more time to gather evidence and build its case against the defendant. For example, if a person is accused of sexually abusing a minor, the SOL for that crime may be tolled until the victim turns 18. Also, the state may have up to 7 years from the victim’s 18th birthday to file charges against the defendant.
Having an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with the SOL and its exceptions is important. An attorney can help determine if the SOL has been tolled in a case and advise on the best defense strategy. An attorney can help ensure that the defendant’s rights are protected, even if the SOL has been tolled.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you on the Statute of Limitations and other aspects of your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and protect your rights.