When it comes to a criminal charge in New York, there is usually something called a statute of limitations. It is well worth your time to understand what this means and how it applies to your case. The concept is very important when it comes to charges against you and going to court because it could mean you cannot be charged with a crime.

NYCourts.gov explains a statute of limitations is how long a prosecutor has to charge you with a crime. It differs for every crime. For theft, the limit is usually two to five years. However, the circumstances of the case often do play into exactly how long, which is up to the discretion of the court.

If you are past the statute of limitations on your case, then the prosecutor cannot file charges against you. If this happens, you can ask the court to dismiss them.

The idea of a statute of limitations is to keep things fair. Having to relive a crime from the past that you have already moved on from is not easy for victims and can lead to problems with evidence and witnesses who no longer really remember what happened.

There are always exceptions. Typically, more serious crimes have longer statute of limitations. Murder, for example, has none. Additionally, crimes that rely heavily on the memories of those involved often have shorter time limits since the longer since the incident, the more likely memories will fade or become distorted.

This information is for education. It is not legal advice.