Criminal Statutes of Limitations in Indiana: Time Isn’t Always on Your Side
Earlier this year, as reported in the Indianapolis Star, a man walked into the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and confessed to committing a rape in 2005. He was prepared to be arrested then and there and face the consequences of his admitted crime, but he walked away a free man who will never be charged or prosecuted for the rape he committed. In Indiana, a prosecution for rape cannot be commenced more than 5 years after the commission of the offense.
Such time limits on when the state can charge and prosecute individuals for crimes are known as statutes of limitations. Indiana is among just seven states with a statute of limitations of five years or less for filing rape charges. In 11 states, the statute of limitations for rape is from six to 9 years. In 12 others, it ranges from 10 to 20 years. And 20 states have no limit at all.
Many people were understandably upset that an admitted rapist could escape prosecution for such a heinous crime because of the statute, but the overhaul of Indiana’s Criminal Code that became effective on June 30, 2014 made no change to the statute of limitations.
Statute of limitations crimes in Indiana are based on the seriousness of the offense, and are divided by Class (for crimes committed before June 30, 2014) or Level (for crimes committed after June 30, 2014). Some key limitations periods are as follows:
- There is no statute of limitations for murder, and a prosecution can be commenced at any time, no matter how much time has passed since the offense or how much time has passed between the commission of the crime and the death of the victim as a result of the crime.
- Similarly, Class A/Level 1 felonies and Level 2 felonies have no statute of limitations and a prosecution can be commenced at any time after the offense is committed.
- The statute of limitations for a Class B, Class C, or Class D felony (for a crime committed before July 1, 2014) or a Level 3, Level 4, Level 5, or Level 6 felony (for a crime committed after June 30, 2014) is five years. However, for Class B and C and Level 3, 4, or 5 felonies, prosecutions can commence within one year after the state first discovers or could have discovered DNA evidence to support charges.
- For misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is two years.
- Certain crimes against minors such as child molesting, vicarious sexual gratification, child solicitation, child seduction, and incest can be prosecuted any time before the alleged victim turns 31 years old.
- There is a five-year statute of limitations on forgery.
The statute of limitations is “tolled,” meaning the clock stops ticking on the limitations period, during any period when:
- the accused is not usually and publicly resident in Indiana or conceals himself or herself so process cannot be served
- the accused conceals evidence, and evidence is unknown to and could not have been discovered by the prosecuting authority
- the accused is elected or appointed to office and is charged with theft or conversion of public funds or bribery while in public office
If you have questions about criminal statutes of limitations in Indiana or how the calculation or applicability of such statutes may impact your criminal defense, please give me a call.
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