Let’s say someone you know was engaged in some sort of criminal activity and managed to get away with it in the short term. Or maybe they made some youthful indiscretions in their earlier years. How long does that person have to live their life looking over their shoulder and worrying about the possibility of facing criminal charges? 

These questions bring into play what is known as the statute of limitations. The first factor to consider is the relevant limitation period, which depends on the potential criminal charge that may attach to the conduct engaged in. For all crimes not otherwise enumerated in the relevant limitations statute, which encompasses the majority of the criminal offenses on the books in Minnesota, a Complaint or Indictment generally must be filed within three years of the commission of the offense.

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There are a number of crimes specified in the statute that have longer limitations periods than three years and some that have no limitations period at all. Certain arson, theft and sex offenses are subject to limitations periods that are longer than the three year default period. Kidnapping and any crime that results in the death of another have no limitations period and can be charged out at any time after commission of the offense.

Another important factor to consider is whether the relevant limitations period has been tolled, or, in other words, whether the running of the limitations period has been paused or delayed for some reason. When the limitations period is tolled, any time that passes does not count towards the statutory time limit for charging. In Minnesota, one reason the limitations period may be tolled is if the defendant is not an inhabitant of or usually a resident within the state. Another form of tolling can occur if a victim is a minor when the offense occurred but didn’t report it until later.

If an offense is not charged out before the applicable limitations period expires, that becomes an absolute defense to any charges for that offense and can lead to complete dismissal of the charges if the defense is asserted and successfully litigated.

Depending on the offense and the specific circumstances of the case, determining the applicable limitations period can be complex. If you, or a loved one, are facing a criminal charge of any kind, contact The Law Office of John J. Leunig at 952-540-6800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a free consultation. The lawyers at The Law Office of John J. Leunig provide vigorous, intelligent and personalized representation to people accused of crimes in State and Federal courts.

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