Louisiana Criminal Procedure: Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations are designed to prevent dishonest and stale claims from arising after all evidence has been lost or after the facts have become obscure through the passage of time or the defective memory, death, or disappearance of witnesses. These statutes apply to both civil and criminal actions. In Louisiana, we also refer to the Statute of Limitation as “the prescriptive period.”
A majority of states have a statute of limitations for all crimes except murder. Criminal statutes of limitations apply to different crimes on the basis of their general classification as either felonies or misdemeanors. Once the statute has expired, the court lacks jurisdiction to try or punish a defendant. The following rules are citation from the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.
La. CCRP Article 578
A trial will not commence and a bail obligation will not be enforceable:
(1) In capital cases after 3 years from the date the prosecutor instituted charges;
(2) In other felony cases after 2 years from the date the prosecution instituted charges; and
(3) In misdemeanor cases after 1 year from the date the prosecution instituted charges.
CRIMES FOR WHICH THERE IS NO TIME LIMITATION
La. CCRP Article 571
There is no time limitation upon the institution of prosecution for any crime for which the punishment may be death or life imprisonment or for the crime of forcible rape.
TIME LIMITATION FOR CERTAIN SEX OFFENSES
La. CCRP Article 571.1
Sexual battery, Second degree sexual battery, Oral sexual battery, Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, Indecent behavior with juveniles, Molestation of a juvenile, Crime against nature, Aggravated crime against nature, Incest, or Aggravated incest which involves a victim under seventeen years of age, regardless of whether the crime involves force, serious physical injury, death, or is punishable by imprisonment at hard labor shall be thirty years. This 30 year period begins to run when the victim attains the age of 18.
LIMITATION OF PROSECUTION OF NONCAPITAL OFFENSES
La. CCRP Article 572
Except as provided above, no person shall be prosecuted for an offense unless the prosecution is instituted within the following periods of time after the offense has been committed:
(1) 6 years, for a felony necessarily punishable by imprisonment at hard labor.
(2) 4 years, for a felony not necessarily punishable by imprisonment at hard labor.
(3) 2 years, for a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, or imprisonment, or both.
(4) 6 months, for a misdemeanor punishable only by a fine or forfeiture.
INTERRUPTION OF STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
La CCRP Article 575
The statutes of limitation shall be interrupted (paused) when the defendant:
(1) Avoids detection, apprehension or prosecution, flees from the state, is outside the state, or is absent from his usual place of living within the state; or
(2) Lacks mental capacity to proceed at trial and is committed to a psychiatric hospital.
FILING OF NEW CHARGES UPON DISMISSAL OF PROSECUTION
La CCRP Article 579
When a criminal prosecution is timely instituted and the prosecution is dismissed by the district attorney with the defendant’s consent, or before the first witness is sworn at the trial, or the indictment is dismissed by a court for any defect, a new prosecution for the same offense or for a lesser offense based on the same facts may be instituted within the time established by statute or within 6 months from the date of dismissal, whichever is longer.
A new prosecution shall not be instituted following a dismissal of the prosecution by the district attorney unless the state shows that the dismissal was not for the purpose of avoiding the time limitation for commencement of trial established.
Criminal statutes of limitations are important because this is a means by which a skilled defense attorney could successfully have a case dismissed.
Contact Elizabeth B. Carpenter, Esq., a New Orleans Criminal Defense Attorney, today to schedule a consultation!