Every state imposes time limits, or statutes of limitations, on a person’s ability to file criminal charges. If a certain amount of time has passed since the criminal offense, the person charged with the crime can move to have the case dismissed as untimely. By requiring that a criminal suit take place within a few years of an alleged crime, the statute of limitations ensures that eyewitness accounts and physical evidence are as reliable as they can be.
Time Limits for Charges
For the majority of felonies, the Illinois criminal statute of limitations is three years. For misdemeanors in Illinois, the statute of limitations is 18 months. Certain serious crimes, however, are exempt from the statute of limitations entirely.
According to Article 3 of the Illinois Criminal Code, the following crimes are exempt from the statute of limitations. This means they can be tried at any time, even decades after the crime occurred. They are:
- First degree murder/attempt to commit first degree murder
- Second degree murder
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Reckless homicide
- Leaving the scene of a car accident involving death or personal injuries
- Failing to render aid and/or provide information according to the Illinois Vehicle Code
- Concealment of homicidal death
- Arson/aggravated arson
- Child pornography/aggravated child pornography
- Sexual assault and abuse against children
- Sexual offenses where any of the following apply:
- The offender’s DNA is entered into the DNA database within 10 years of the offense
- The victim reports the offense to police within three years of the offense
- The victim is murdered during the offense or dies within two years after the offense
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
The Illinois Criminal Code also permits several exceptions to the statute of limitations. For example, in certain cases, the statute of limitations to file a criminal lawsuit can be extended. The statute of limitations does not run in the following situations:
- If the offender leaves the state of Illinois. Some people think that they can flee the jurisdiction and avoid criminal charges by “waiting out the clock.” However, this is not the case, and the statute of limitations will resume upon their return to Illinois
- If a material witness is on active military duty or on military leave
- If the accused is currently facing prosecution for a second instance of the same crime
- If the defendant is a public officer and charged with theft of public funds
- If someone is threatened with violence to obtain information or a confession and is then incarcerated as a result
- While sexual assault evidence is being analyzed by State Police
Finally, if the offense consists of a series of crimes committed over time, the statute of limitations begins when the last crime in the series was committed.
Certain crimes also carry a longer or shorter statute of limitations than the standard. They include crimes involving $5,000 or more (5 years), hazardous waste violations (5 years), theft of property over $100,000 (7 years), financial exploitation of the elderly and disabled (7 years), and identity theft (7 years). This list is by no means exhaustive; you should speak to an experienced attorney to confirm the statute of limitations for your specific situation.
Minors, the Disabled, and the Statute of Limitations
When a crime involves a minor or legally disabled person in Illinois, the statute of limitations may be extended, depending on the crime.
- In cases of misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse of a minor, the statute of limitations expires 10 years after the minor turns 18.
- In cases of child prostitution, exploitation, or pornography, the statute of limitations expires at least one year after the minor turns 18, but no sooner than three years after the offense.
- In cases of criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, or felony criminal sexual abuse where the victim is a minor, there is no statute of limitations.
Consult with a Peoria Criminal Lawyer
Have you been accused of a crime? If too much time has passed, it’s possible that the state can’t bring a case against you. The criminal statutes of limitations in Illinois are complex and nuanced. To be sure you know the law and your options within the extent of the law, work with the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Schierer & Ritchie. Free consultations are available, so contact us today to discuss the details of your case.