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By Benson Varghese

Published on: May 20th, 2018 at 8:12 PM
Last Updated: August 5th, 2020 at 5:39 PM

What is the statute of limitation for criminal cases in Texas?

The statute of limitations is the period of time a prosecutor has to bring charges against an individual. The length of the statute of limitations depends on the alleged offense. There are also ways the statute can be “tolled” or paused. Some offenses do not have a statute of limitations. The limitations for various criminal offenses are laid out here and in Article 12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

How Long are the Statutes of Limitations in Texas?

The criminal statute of limitations in Texas varies, depending on the severity of the offense. The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is two years. Unless specified, it’s three years for felonies. However, it’s important to point out that many felonies do carry a specified statute of limitations, usually at five years, seven years or ten years. Some limitations are based on the age of the victim. For some offenses, such as murder and aggravated sexual assault of a child, there is no statute of limitations at all.

Statute of Limitations Criminal Charges in Texas

OffenseLimitationStatute
MurderNone12.01(1)
ManslaughterNone12.01(1)
Sexual Assault of a ChildNone12.01(1)
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a ChildNone12.01(1)
Sexual Assaults where DNA was collectedNone12.01(1)
Serial Sexual AssaultNone12.01(1)
Continuous Sexual AssaultNone12.01(1)
Indecency with a ChildNone12.01(1)
Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in deathNone12.01(1)
Trafficking of childNone12.01(1)
Continuous Trafficking of PersonsNone12.01(1)
Compelling Prostitution of Child under 18None12.01(1)
Theft by Trustee10 Years12.01(2)
Theft by a Public Servant of Government Property10 Years12.01(2)
Forgery or passing a forged instrument10 Years12.01(2)
Injury to Elderly or Disabled (First Degree)10 Years12.01(2)
Sexual Assault10 Years12.01(2)
Arson10 Years12.01(2)
Trafficking of persons10 Years12.01(2)
Compelling Prostitution10 Years12.01(2)
Misapplication of fiduciary property7 Years12.01(3)
Securing fiduciary property by deception7 Years12.01(3)
Felony violation of Tax Code Chapter 1627 Years12.01(3)
False statement to obtain credit7 Years12.01(3)
Money laundering7 Years12.01(3)
Credit card or debit card abuse7 Years12.01(3)
Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information7 Years12.01(3)
Medicaid fraud7 Years12.01(3)
Bigamy (generally)7 Years12.01(3)
Theft5 years12.01(4)
Robbery5 years12.01(4)
Kidnapping (generally)5 years12.01(4)
Burglary (generally)5 years12.01(4)
Injury to Elderly or Disabled (Other than First Degree)5 years12.01(4)
Abandoning or Endangering a Child5 years12.01(4)
Insurance Fraud5 years12.01(4)
Sexual Performance by a childIf the victim was under 17 at the time of offense, 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday12.01(5)
Aggravated Kidnapping with intent to commit a sexual offenseIf the victim was under 17 at the time of offense, 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday12.01(5)
Injury to a ChildTen years from the 18th Birthday of the victim12.01(6)
Other felonies3 years12.01(7)
Misdemeanors2 years

Why do Statutes of Limitation Exist?

By setting statute of limitations, the legislature tries to balance the need for victims to come forward with ability of the accused to have evidence for which to defend themselves. The statute of limitations is the time in which a case must be filed before being barred from prosecution due to delay. In other words, if the state fails to bring a case against a suspect within a certain time period, it loses the right to prosecute the case.

If you are facing criminal allegations, reach out to our Fort Worth attorneys for help understanding your legal options and whether your case is within the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a DWI?

The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor DWI is two years. This includes Driving While Intoxicated; Driving While Intoxicated – Misdemeanor Repetition; Driving While Intoxicated with a BAC >/= .15; and Driving While Intoxicated with an Open Container. The statute of limitations for Driving While Intoxicated with a Child Passenger and Driving While Intoxicated – Felony Repetition is three years. The statute of limitations for Intoxication Assault and Intoxication Manslaughter is three years.

Why Do We Have Statutes of Limitations?

Statutes of limitations exist because the passage of time affects the quality of evidence on both sides. Statutes of limitations protect individuals from having to defend themselves against charges when basic facts and evidence may have become obscured or deteriorated with the passage of time. As mentioned, statutes of limitations vary based on the offense and, for some crimes, there is no statute of limitations.  Additionally, the statute of limitations may be tolled, or suspended, under certain circumstances.

Can the Limitations Clock be Stopped?

The statute of limitations can be tolled (or paused) while the accused is absent from the state or by charging the person by indictment, information, or complaint.

What is “Tolling” of a Statute of Limitations?

Under certain circumstances, the statute of limitations can be tolled, which basically means it is paused. For example, the statute of limitations is tolled for any time period in which the defendant was under indictment for “the same conduct, same act, or same transaction.” Similarly, the statute of limitations can be tolled while the accused is absent from the state. Tolling commonly occurs when a defendant is on the run. Simply put, tolling means the clock stops running for a certain period of time.

How long can a felony charge be pending?

Once a felony case is filed, the statute of limitations is tolled. This means prosecution won’t be barred by the passage of time through the statute of limitations. There are, however, some limitations on how long the case can be pending. First, if an indictment is not obtained within the first 90 days of a person being in custody or first 180 days of a person being on bond, the individual must be given a reasonable or personal recognizance bond. The case can still remain pending but the limitations on a person’s liberties without indictment are curtailed. Next, a judge can grant a motion for speedy trial dismissal if the case is pending for too long, depending on why the case was taking as long as it was. This, however, is an extremely rare occurrence.

How long do the police have to file charges in Texas?

The police are limited by the statute of limitations in most cases. However if the person was out of state, that could give the police more time to file charges.

What is the statute of limitations for a felony in Texas?

Many felonies have a 3-year statute of limitations. This is the norm. More serious felonies and felonies that are harder to discover like insurance fraud have a 5-year statute of limitations. Some offenses have a statute of limitations tied to the age of the alleged victim, such as injury to a child. You see a 7-year statute of limitations for many fraud allegations. Finally, there are 10-year and even no limitation statutes for serious sex cases or violent offenses.

What crimes have no statute of limitations in Texas?

In Texas, there is no statute of limitations for the following serious criminal allegations: murder, manslaughter, sexual assault of a child, aggravated sexual assault of a child, sexual assaults where DNA was collected, serial sexual assaults, continuous sexual assault, indecency with a child, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and certain trafficking offenses.

What is the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor in Texas?

The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor in Texas is 2 years.

Call An Attorney to Learn More About the Deadline of a Criminal Case in Fort Worth

If you are looking to better understand your rights and how the statute of limitations might impact your criminal case in Fort Worth, call a knowledgeable lawyer at our firm today for help.