What Is the Georgia Statute of Limitations for Criminal Offenses?
Criminal Statute of Limitations in Georgia
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit within which legal proceedings must be initiated.
In criminal cases, it refers to the maximum time after a crime has occurred within which the state can prosecute the perpetrator.
Once the statute of limitations expires, the state is generally barred from filing charges or pursuing a lawsuit.
Statutes of limitations aim to promote justice by ensuring that cases are tried while physical evidence and witnesses are still available. They also seek to prevent individuals from being indefinitely vulnerable to prosecution for past misconduct.
The time limit set by the statutes of limitations can vary depending on the specific crime and jurisdiction.
Georgia Criminal Statute of Limitations for Felonies and Misdemeanors
Misdemeanors and felonies have different statutes of limitations because they differ in severity. Since misdemeanors are less serious offenses, their statutes of limitations are shorter. More serious offenses, such as felonies, are afforded much longer limitations.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for most misdemeanors is two years. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
Traffic violations or violations of local ordinances may be limited to less than two years.
In some cases, the statute of limitations is extended or tolled. For example, if the accused is out of Georgia or has fled, the statute of limitations may be paused or tolled until they are found and returned to Georgia. Moreover, if the victim was under 18 when the crime took place, the statute of limitations may be extended beyond the usual two-year limit.
The statute of limitations for most felonies is seven years, but some exceptions may apply.
Murder cases in Georgia have no statute of limitations, meaning that alleged perpetrators can be charged irrespective of how much time has passed since the crime occurred.
For other serious felonies, such as crimes punishable by life imprisonment and death penalties, no statute of limitations applies if D.N.A. evidence is available and preserved. These felonies include aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape.
No statute of limitations applies in crimes that are committed against victims younger than 16, such as rape, sex trafficking, and child molestation, except in a few cases where the perpetrator is under 18 and no more than four years older than the victim.
Prosecution for forcible rape must be initiated within 15 years of committing the crime, and felonies committed against minor victims carry a 7-year limit.
There are different statutes of limitations on domestic violence.
What Is the 4-Year Statute of Limitations in Georgia?
A 4-year statute of limitations applies to other felonies, such as:
- Assault and battery
- False imprisonment
- Involuntary and voluntary manslaughter
- Receiving stolen property
However, some of these felonies attract higher or lower limits.
Extending the Statute of Limitations in Georgia
Determining when a statute of limitations expires depends on when it began running. Generally, the time limit countdown starts when the crime occurs and stops upon filing the charges or indictment. However, a few exceptions apply in crimes that involve minors or older adults and other cases where the offender is unknown or a fugitive.
- Older victims
If a victim was older than 65 at the time of the crime, the period only starts to run once the crime is reported or discovered. If the crime committed against the older person had a statute of limitations of less than 15 years, the limitation is increased to 15 years.
- Minor victims
Where a sex crime was committed against a minor, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin to run until the alleged victim reaches 16 years of age or when the crime is reported, whichever occurs earlier.
- Periods excluded during the statute of limitations
Some events pause the statute of limitations, allowing the prosecution more time to arrest and charge offenders. Examples include when the accused absconds by leaving the state or when the suspect or crime is unknown.
Also, in certain theft crimes involving government employees, a guardian, or a trustee, the statute doesn’t run until they no longer fill that position.
The statute of limitations may not run in cases where:
- The crime has not been reported
- The defendant is not a Georgia resident
- The offender’s identity is unknown
- The offender is a government official who committed theft by conversion of property
- The offender is a guardian or trustee who committed theft by conversion of property of the ward or beneficiary.
Prosecutors have an additional six months if they have already started a case but paused it.
How the Waltman Firm Can Assist
If you face criminal charges under Georgia law, there are time limits within which the State is allowed charge you. Considering the statute of limitations can be critical in dismissing a criminal charge. Our diligent criminal lawyers are familiar with the nuances of the Georgia statutes of limitations, which can be pretty complex.
We believe in the bold and tenacious representation of our clients. We treat every case individually and customize a legal defense strategy for your circumstances. Whether you have been charged with murder, felony drug offenses, or any other crimes, we have the criminal law experience to defend you. We also handle personal injury claims. Call us today to seek advice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Felony Drug Charges in Georgia?
The statute of limitations on felony drug charges in Georgia is four years.
Yes, a domestic violence charge will show up on a background check. Employers, landlords, and financial institutions use the Georgia Crime Information Center (G.C.I.C.) to access background information, including arrests, criminal charges, and convictions for domestic violence.
What Happens When the Statute of Limitations Expires?
When the statute of limitations expires, the state is typically barred from prosecuting the accused for the alleged offense, with some rare exceptions.
Can a Defendant Waive the Statute of Limitations?
No, it is a legal requirement that is in place to protect individuals from being unfairly prosecuted for alleged offenses that occurred too long ago.