If you are concerned about being investigated, or prosecuted, for a criminal offense, but have yet to have any direct contact with law enforcement, you may be nervously waiting for the proverbial bomb to drop. Will it be tomorrow when the police show up at your door with an arrest warrant? Will it be next week? Maybe you won’t hear anything for several months or longer. At what point can you stop worrying? Is there a point at which you can stop looking over your shoulder? To give you some idea whether you still need to worry about being prosecuted, a Tennessee criminal defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains the statute of limitations for criminal offenses.
The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
If you did something that you know, or even think, amounts to a criminal offense, but did not get caught in the act, you may think you got away with your crime. On the other hand, you might be losing sleep wondering if you really did get away with it. While the police do arrest some suspects at the scene of the crime, or shortly thereafter, most arrests are only made after a thorough investigation by law enforcement. The more serious the crime, the more likely it is that the police will conduct a lengthy investigation before making an arrest. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, major crimes tend to be committed by more serious criminals and only after planning the crime. That plan usually contemplates an escape route or includes the taking of measures to avoid being caught. The other primary reason a lengthy investigation prior to an arrest is more likely when a serious crime is involved is that the police and prosecutor don’t want to make a costly mistake. If you committed the crime in question, waiting to find out if the police figure out who committed the crime can be nerve-racking. At what point can you breathe normally again and stop waiting for the police to come banging on your door?
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
If you have been looking over your shoulder waiting for the police to arrest you, the good news is that there is likely a point at which you can stop waiting, worrying, and looking. All states, including the State of Tennessee, have criminal statutes of limitation that limit the time period within which the state must initiate the prosecution of a criminal offense. If the State fails to initiate the prosecution of the crime within the applicable statute of limitation time period, and no exception applies, the State is forever barred from prosecuting the suspect. Keep in mind that the State is not required to conclude the prosecution of the case within the applicable time period, only commence the prosecution of the case.
In the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Code 40-2-101 et seq. governs criminal statutes of limitations. In general, the applicable statutes of limitations are as follows:
- Misdemeanors –misdemeanor prosecutions must commence within 12 months after the offense was committed with the following exceptions:
- Gaming –must commence with 6 months
- Criminal impersonation using a fraudulently obtained driver license – must commence within the longer of:
- One year after the date the driver license expires
- Three years from the date the non-expired driver license was last used to falsely impersonate the person in whose name the driver license was issued.
- Felonies – prosecution for a felony offense must commence within the following time frames, depending on the level of felony:
- E Felony – 2 years
- D & C Felony – 4 years
- B Felony – 8 years
- A Felony – 15 years
- Felonies punishable by life in prison or death – anytime – no statute of limitations
- Common Exceptions – as a general rule, the statute of limitation time frame begins when the crime is committed. There are some common exceptions to that general rule, including:
- Age of victim – if the crime involves a minor, the statute of limitations dictates that the prosecution of said crime must begin no late than the victim’s 21st birthday if the crime was committed after July 1, 1997. If the crime was committed prior to July 1, 1997, the prosecution must begin within four years of the commission of the offense or by the time the victim reaches the age of majority, whichever is later
- Concealment – the applicable statute of limitations is tolled (stopped) during any period during which the party charged conceals the fact of the crime.
- Flight – the applicable statute of limitations is tolled during any period of time during which the party charged was not usually and publicly resident within the state.
Contact a Tennessee Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing the possibility of criminal charges in the State of Tennessee and you have questions about the statute of limitation for the offense in question, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Tennessee criminal defense lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.