Almost every criminal offense in the state of Florida is limited in the time between the offense and the last possible time in which the state can prosecute a defendant for that offense. Florida’s statute of limitations for criminal offenses is a very important aspect of the law that you need to know about if you find yourself facing criminal charges.
In Florida, the statute of limitations defines the time at which the prosecution may no longer file criminal charges against a defendant. The length in time varies from crime to crime, but some serious crimes, including murder or a felony that results in death, has no statute of limitations, allowing the prosecutor to bring charges against a defendant up to several decades after the crime allegedly occurred.
In Florida, if a capital felony, a life felony, or a felony that results in death is the charge, the law specifically allows for prosecution at any time.
If the felony is a first degree felony not described above, prosecutors may bring a case up to four years after the crime is alleged to have occurred.
For all other felonies, prosecution must begin within three years of the alleged crime.
The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is shorter than that for felonies. For a first degree misdemeanor, charges must be brought within two years of its commission, while all other misdemeanors must be charged by prosecutors within a year of its commission.
As with most legal rules, several exceptions to the statute of limitations can be found in Florida law. For instance, perjury (lying under oath) in a capital felony may be charged at any time after the testimony occurred. Additionally, sexual battery on a minor that occurred after July 1, 2020, may also be charged at any time after the crime.
Some crimes in Florida may have their statute of limitations lengthened in special circumstances. If the felony uses a destructive device and a person is injured, charges may be brought up to ten years after the occurrence of the crime. First or second degree felony abuse or neglect of an aged or disabled adult has a five year statute of limitations. So too for securities violations, Medicaid provider fraud, and insurance fraud. Certain environmental crimes also have a five year limit on prosecution as well.
In most cases, the crime itself starts the clock on the statute of limitations. However, a few exceptions exist in Florida law to this rule as well. Charges can be brought up to a year after the discovery of a crime involving a fiduciary duty if the statute has already run on the original crime. Crimes involving public misconduct may be brought up to two years after the defendant leaves office, and crimes involving DNA evidence may be brought up to a year after discovery of that evidence, even if the original statute of limitations has already run.
The statute of limitations may be extended in cases where the defendant is not present in the state of Florida, which is known as “tolling.” If a defendant is outside the state of Florida for up to three years, prosecutors may count that time as not being part of the statute of limitations time frame and extend the time allowed between the crime and charging of it by that time span.