The statute of limitation dictates how long someone has to file a case in civil or criminal courts. Once this time elapses, a prosecutor loses the power to pursue criminal charges against a given defendant or suspect.
The primary purpose of the time limit is it to prevent delays in pressing charges and to make sure that convictions are fair based on the best possible evidence (eyewitnesses or physical). After the allocated time elapses, the crime cannot be prosecuted, and any case presented after that point is subject to dismissal. However, the statute of limitation varies based on the kind of crime involved; felony charges like treason, kidnapping, and murder have no statutory limit on pressing charges, misdemeanor charges have limits of 18 months, while vehicular homicide and exiting accident scene that leads to a person’s death have limits of up to 5 years.
Purpose of the statute of limitation
As stated above, the primary goal of criminal statutes of limitation is to ensure that that the trials are fair based on evidence that has not diminished due to time. Crime evidence, both testimonial (such as eyewitness accounts and police statements) and physical (such as DNA and fingerprints) have the potential to deteriorate, get lost or become invalid over time.
The reason why the time limit varies from case to case is that the justice system tries to weigh between the interest of prosecuting the most serious crimes and the interest of carrying out an actual criminal trial, while not letting the defendant bear the cost of the charges indefinitely.
For this reason, the statutory “clock’ on most time limits will only run as long as the defendant is still visible and in the state where the crime happened. But if the alleged perpetrator is hiding or out of state, then the prosecutorial clock will pause, and continue running if and when the suspect goes back to the state. This is to keep crime perpetrators from evading the consequences for their actions by merely hiding, running and waiting out the authorities.
Defendants who are unsure about what statute of limitations apply for their case can consult with Colorado Legal Defense Group for legal advice regarding the best course of action to take.
Criminal Statutes in Colorado
- Murder, conspiracy, attempt, or solicitation to murder; treason, conspiracy, effort, or solicitation to commit treason; kidnapping, conspiracy, effort, or solicitation to commit kidnapping; any forgery, notwithstanding the penalty granted, conspiracy, attempt, or solicitation to do any forgery notwithstanding the sentence issued have no limitation whatsoever.
- Aggravated incest, sexual assault, procurement or pandering of a child, sexual exploitation or trafficking of children have limits of up to 10 years.
- Felonies like abuse of public office, bribery have a limit of up to three years.
- Traffic offenses and Class I and II have a limit of up to 18 months
- Petty offenses have a limit of up to 6 months
- 3rd-degree sexual assaults have a limit of up to five years
- Acts during which the time limit doesn’t run
If the suspect is out of state, there is an extension of up to 5 years