How the Statute of Limitations in Indiana Could Help Your Case
When you are charged with a crime, your life can change significantly. A criminal trial can cause incredible anxiety and immense emotional suffering for the accused and their family members. But did you know that the prosecution of a crime has a deadline? If the applicable statute of limitations in Indiana is exceeded, the State cannot prosecute you—but only if you raise that defense.
Indiana has statutes of limitations in place to protect people from being charged with a crime long after the events took place. Depending on the offense, a different limitations period may apply. If you think you are being charged after the statute of limitations has run, you need an Indiana criminal defense lawyer to help you argue that prosecution is barred.
What Is a Statute of Limitations in Indiana?
What is a statute of limitations? It’s the period of time between the commission of the offense and initiation of prosecution of the offense. If the State initiates the prosecution after the deadline, the defendant may file a motion to have the charge or charges dismissed.
Not all case timelines are clear-cut. In some cases, a timely initiated criminal case may get dismissed for other reasons. Should a case be dismissed due to irregularities, errors, defects, or insufficiencies, the prosecutor may refile the charges within a 90-day period after the charges were dismissed without running afoul of the statute of limitations, even if the original period of limitations has expired by the time the case was dismissed. However, should the prosecutor fail to bring charges within the 90-day period, the charges cannot be refiled.
An Indiana criminal defense lawyer can help you identify when the statute of limitations begins and when the prosecutor has failed to initiate the case by that deadline.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations in Indiana
To determine whether the State has exceeded the statute of limitations, you have to know what it means to initiate prosecution. Prosecution is considered to start at the earliest of the following:
- The date the indictment, information, or complaint is filed in the correct court
- The issuance of a valid arrest warrant
- The date of a valid arrest by law enforcement without a warrant
Certain circumstances or events can stop the clock, or toll, the counting for the limitations period. For example, when a crime goes undiscovered or the victim fails to report the crime, the law allows for a delay in the starting point or an extension of the limitations period. Tolling of the statute of limitations in Indiana is common in the following circumstances:
- When a public official commits the crime of theft, bribery, or conversion of public funds, the clock does not run at any point while the official is in office
- When the offense involves security violations, such as crimes involving securities, commodities, or loans, an extension of the starting time five-year period for the statute of limitations may apply
- When the state discovers evidence through DNA analysis, the prosecutor may bring charges on a level 3, 4, or 5 felony within a year of the date of discovery or the date the evidence could have been discovered
- For Level 3 felony rape cases, if DNA or recorded evidence becomes available or an individual confesses, charges may be pursued within five years
- When an accused individual has concealed involvement in or evidence of the offense and the prosecutor has no knowledge and could not have attained knowledge through due diligence of the evidence sufficient to file charges, an extension may be granted
The statute of limitations in Indiana also does not run when the defendant is absent from the state or conceals him or herself. As a result, if an accused has taken steps to avoid arrest for a crime, the prosecutor may have “extra time” to file charges.
If you are facing arrest or criminal charges, you need immediate help from a qualified Indiana criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. An experienced criminal lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can ensure any tolling of the statute of limitations in Indiana is in compliance with the law.
The Statute of Limitations in Indiana for Misdemeanors
In Indiana, misdemeanors are offenses punishable by up to a year in jail. There are three categories of misdemeanors in Indiana:
- Class A, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000
- Class B, which carries a penalty of up to 180 days imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000
- Class C, which results in up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500
The Indiana statute of limitations for misdemeanors is two years from the date the crime was committed.
Despite the lower penalties, misdemeanors can still have a significant impact on your life. Speaking to an Indiana criminal defense lawyer can improve your chances of avoiding conviction, reducing the charges or sentence, or establishing the charges were brought too late.
No Statute of Limitations for Murder or Level 1 or 2 Felonies
Indiana has identified murder and Level 1 and 2 felonies as being more severe than other offenses and, as a result, the law allows the prosecution longer to file these charges. In fact, under Indiana Code § 35-41-4-2, murder and Level 1 and Level 2 felonies have no limitations period, meaning the prosecutor can bring the charges at any point after the commission of the offense.
Indiana Code § 35-42-1-1 defines murder as the intentional or knowing killing of another human being or the killing of another during the commission of specified other offenses. Level 1 and Level 2 felonies are generally violent crimes and include the following:
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Rape that involves deadly force, the use of a deadly weapon, serious bodily injury, or involuntary drugging of the victim
These are serious crimes and their consequences can potentially ruin an accused’s life. As such, it is wise to contact an Indiana criminal defense attorney to represent you to explore the statute of limitations and other defense strategies.
The Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes in Indiana
Indiana has identified several types of sex crimes that, because of their seriousness, have a longer limitations period. Under Indiana Code § 35-41-4-2, the limitations period for such offenses is as follows:
- For sexual misconduct with a minor, child molestation, child solicitation, or child seduction, the prosecution must be initiated before the victim reaches the age of 31
- For other sex offenses against children, the prosecution must be initiated by the later of ten years after the crime occurred or four years after the child is no longer the offender’s dependent
Sex crimes in Indiana carry heavy penalties that may result in a large portion of the defendant’s life being spent in prison. For help avoiding these penalties, contact an Indiana criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to develop appropriate defense strategies, including whether statute of limitations applies in your case.
How the Statute of Limitations in Indiana Affects the Prosecution of Level 3 to 6 Felonies
Prosecution for crimes classified as Level 3 through 6 felonies must be initiated within five years. However, the statute of limitations in Indiana does not bar prosecution of a Level 3, 4, or 5 offenses within one year of the earlier of the following:
- The date sufficient DNA evidence to support a charge is discovered by the State
- The date sufficient DNA evidence could have been discovered by the State
Level 3 felony rape charges or charges of criminal deviate conduct that would be outside of the statute of limitations ordinarily may be brought within five years of the earlier of these occurrences:
- The discovery of DNA evidence sufficient to support a charge or charges
- The discovery of recorded evidence sufficient to support a charge or charges
- A confession of commission of the offense
Raising the Defense of Statute of Limitations in Indiana
Raising the statute of limitations means you must prove an affirmative defense. While the prosecution normally bears the burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant must offer evidence to prove an affirmative defense such as the statute of limitations. While the bar is high, the reward is great: the establishment of this affirmative defense results in the dismissal of the defendant’s case.
Generally, the defendant or the defendant’s attorney must file a motion to dismiss the charges based on the statute of limitations. Effectively raising the statute of limitations in Indiana as an affirmative defense requires careful attention to detail, thorough investigation of the case and its procedural history, and experience in criminal defense litigation. The statute of limitations defense cannot be waived and may be brought at any point throughout the prosecution, but questions can arise as to when the statute of limitations began to run, making it difficult for a non-lawyer or an inexperienced attorney to identify the availability of this defense.
Being charged with a crime is serious and can result in life-altering consequences. If you are charged with a crime, a skilled defense attorney can determine whether prosecution against you is barred by the statute of limitations in Indiana. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, our Indiana criminal defense attorneys have the experience and skills to use the best possible defense strategies to limit your exposure. To learn how we can help with your case, call (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.