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The statute of limitations for a criminal case in Texas refers to how long prosecutors have to bring a case against a person. The statute of limitations vary for different offenses and are laid out in Article 12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

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 determining your legal options and rights for your unique situation.

How Long is 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 criminal statute of 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 limitation at all.

A Chart of  Deadlines

Generally, the statute of limitations for criminal cases in Texas can be found under Chapter 12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Here’s a look at the statue of limitations for some common offenses:

Offense Limitation Statute
Murder None 12.01(1)
Manslaughter None 12.01(1)
Sexual Assault of a Child None 12.01(1)
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child None 12.01(1)
Sexual Assaults where DNA was collected None 12.01(1)
Serial Sexual Assault None 12.01(1)
Continuous Sexual Assault None 12.01(1)
Indecency with a Child None 12.01(1)
Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death None 12.01(1)
Trafficking of child None 12.01(1)
Continuous Trafficking of Persons None 12.01(1)
Compelling Prostitution of Child under 18 None 12.01(1)
Theft by Trustee 10 Years 12.01(2)
Theft by a Public Servant of Government Property 10 Years 12.01(2)
Forgery or passing a forged instrument 10 Years 12.01(2)
Injury to Elderly or Disabled (First Degree) 10 Years 12.01(2)
Sexual Assault 10 Years 12.01(2)
Arson 10 Years 12.01(2)
Trafficking of persons 10 Years 12.01(2)
Compelling Prostitution 10 Years 12.01(2)
Misapplication of fiduciary property 7 Years 12.01(3)
Securing fiduciary property by deception 7 Years 12.01(3)
Felony violation of Tax Code Chapter 162 7 Years 12.01(3)
False statement to obtain credit 7 Years 12.01(3)
Money laundering 7 Years 12.01(3)
Credit card or debit card abuse 7 Years 12.01(3)
Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information 7 Years 12.01(3)
Medicaid fraud 7 Years 12.01(3)
Bigamy (generally) 7 Years 12.01(3)
Theft 5 years 12.01(4)
Robbery 5 years 12.01(4)
Kidnapping (generally) 5 years 12.01(4)
Burglary (generally) 5 years 12.01(4)
Injury to Elderly or Disabled (Other than First Degree) 5 years 12.01(4)
Abandoning or Endangering a Child 5 years 12.01(4)
Insurance Fraud 5 years 12.01(4)
Sexual Performance by a child If the victim was under 17 at the time of offense, 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday 12.01(5)
Aggravated Kidnapping with intent to commit a sexual offense If the victim was under 17 at the time of offense, 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday 12.01(5)
Injury to a Child Ten years from the 18th Birthday of the victim 12.01(6)
Other felonies 3 years 12.01(7)
Misdemeanors 2 years

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, 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.

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.