New Jersey Criminal Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a time limit placed by law within which a person must file a lawsuit to do so. The statute of limitations establishes the time limit within which a crime can be prosecuted in a given jurisdiction. When this period has expired, the state typically drops the case. There are philosophical and practical arguments for setting a time limit on criminal prosecutions, such as the degradation of evidence and the loss of witnesses’ memory. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect by the state, and no one should be persecuted for acts they may have committed in the distant past.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey, you may wonder how the judicial system works and how it may affect your defense, and a Jersey City criminal lawyer can help.

How Long Is New Jersey’s Limitation Period?

The statute of limitations for a crime in New Jersey varies based on the nature and severity of the crime. The statute of limitations for felony-indictable offenses is typically five years. For most offenses, such as disorderly conduct, the statute of limitations is one year. If the claimed crime was indictable, the state has five years to pursue charges; if the alleged crime was a disorderly person infraction, the state has just one year.

When Does the Criminal Statute of Limitations Begin to Run?

The statute of limitations clock typically begins counting down from when the accused crime happened. However, the beginning and end of some crimes cannot be readily discerned. This holds when criminal activity has occurred for some time, such as fraud or embezzlement schemes. A qualified criminal defense attorney in New Jersey can explain the statute of limitations that may apply to your case if you are accused of a crime of this nature.

When a statute of limitations is tolled, what does it entail?

The term “tolling” is used in the law to describe the practice of suspending or extending the statute of limitations. In cases where the accused has fled the scene or if DNA or fingerprint evidence for the alleged crime has not yet been discovered, the statute of limitations may be tolled. In such situations, the clock would not restart until the fugitive was apprehended or new evidence was discovered.

Is there a time limit on criminal prosecutions, or do some offenses carry no penalty?

New Jersey has no statute of limitations for the most severe offenses, meaning prosecutors can file charges at any time. This provision covers offenses like:

  • Slaying with Impalement
  • Assaults on women
  • Terrorism
  • producing or endangering a vast area of damage
  • Crimes against the environment

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