Yes, some crimes in New Jersey don’t have any statute of limitations. That means you can be charged with them no matter how long ago they were allegedly committed.
Understanding what the statute of limitations on various crimes is can be important to your criminal defense strategy. Find out more about what statutes of limitations are below, including why they matter and which crimes don’t have any in the state of New Jersey.
The statute of limitations is the deadline clock for potential legal actions. This concept exists for both civil and criminal law.
In civil law, the statute of limitations defines the point at which someone can no longer sue for something. In criminal law, the statute of limitations is the deadline for filing charges regarding a specific crime.
Here is a hypothetical example to demonstrate the concept. If a crime has a statute of limitations of five years, that means prosecutors have a total of five years to bring charges against someone. If the crime was allegedly committed on August 1, 2010, charges must be brought by August 1, 2015. If someone is arrested for this crime in January 2016, their defense against these charges may be that the statute of limitations has passed.
To understand what the statute of limitations might be on a crime in New Jersey, you first have to know whether a crime is an indictable offense or a disorderly persons offense.
Most states divide major and minor crimes under the categories of felony and misdemeanor. In New Jersey, major crimes that would be considered felonies elsewhere are considered indictable offenses. More minor offenses that would be considered misdemeanors elsewhere are called disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey.
In general, disorderly persons offenses come with a statute of limitations of one year.
Some indictable crimes don’t have any statute of limitations. That means the clock doesn’t stop at all and charges can be filed even decades later if new evidence arises.
Crimes without a statute of limitations in the state include:
There are also no statutes of limitations for most sexual offenses. This is due to the statute of limitation reform in New Jersey in 1996. This same reform also extended how long potential victims have to file civil lawsuits in sexual abuse and assault cases.
Other crimes in New Jersey tend to have a statute of limitations of five or seven years.
Crimes that have a statute of limitations of seven years include:
Almost all other indictable offenses that haven’t been listed above have a statute of limitations of five years. That includes theft crimes, some assault crimes, and many drug crimes.
The statute of limitations is critically important to criminal defense because it can effectively time-bar the prosecution. If you are being charged with a crime that’s past the statute of limitations, you can have the case thrown out because it’s not allowed by law.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand whether the charges you’re facing are past the statute of limitations. They can argue in court on your behalf for the case to be dismissed for this reason.
It’s not always as easy as pulling up a calendar and pointing out the time discrepancy for a judge. In some cases, when, exactly, a crime was committed might be unclear, and a lawyer can help make a case for a date and time that is in your best interest.
Your attorney may also be able to help you understand how arguing for a different type of crime is in your interest. For example, if you’re being charged with an indictable offense but your lawyer can make a compelling case that the incident was really a disorderly persons offense, the statute of limitations is much shorter. If a year has already passed, the case may be thrown out once the judge or prosecutor agrees to the change in charges.
As you can see, criminal defense cases can be complex. Strong strategies rely on a deep understanding of the law and all the details of a case. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side can make a difference in the outcome of your case.
If you are facing criminal charges, don’t fight them alone. Reach out to The Hernandez Law Firm, P.C., to find out how we can help.