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How long does a prosecutor have to file criminal charges?

For many crimes, there is no statute of limitations. In other words, the prosecution may charge someone no matter how long ago the crime allegedly occurred. In Colorado, there are many serious offenses that have no statute of limitations. Examples include murder, kidnapping, treason and forgery.

There is a 10-year statute of limitations for other serious crimes, including aggravated incest, sexual assault, soliciting for child prostitution, trafficking in or sexual exploitation of children or pandering or procurement of a child. For other felonies, the statute of limitations is generally three years.

For misdemeanors, including traffic offenses and Class 1 and II misdemeanors, there is a statute of limitations of one year. For petty offenses, the statute of limitations is six months. Third-degree assault has a statute of limitations of five years.

The statute of limitations will toll or will be suspended for five years if someone is not in Colorado. The reason for the laws on statutes of limitations is to make sure that the evidence in the cases has not deteriorated over time. This includes eyewitness and physical evidence.

Some other states, such as Wyoming, have no statute of limitation, no matter what the crime may be.

If you believe that the statute of limitation has passed for a crime you might be charged with, it's best to speak with your attorney. He or she can determine if the prosecution can still proceed with charges. If so, it's best to work on your defense so that you are prepared if necessary. If not, then you are essentially free to go unless there is a different crime with which the prosecution could charge you that is still within the time limits.

Source: FindLaw, "Time Limits for Charges: State Criminal Statutes of Limitations," accessed March 09, 2016

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