A statute of limitations is like a countdown. Once it reaches zero, the time that a person could be prosecuted for a crime has expired, including a number of crimes defined as felonies under Texas law. However, a statute of limitations does not last for the same amount of time for every felony. Depending on the severity of the crime, some statutes will last longer.
According to Texas law, the state has up to five years from the time the crime was committed to prosecute crimes like theft or robbery, child endangerment or abandonment, or insurance fraud. A longer period of seven years is applied for some white collar crimes like money laundering, stealing records or misapplying the property of financial institutions. Statutes are extended to ten years for felonies like arson, forgery, stealing government property, defrauding the beneficiaries of an estate, and forms of human trafficking or sexual assault.
Whether the person committed a crime as a minor can also be a factor. If someone engages in certain felonies while less than seventeen years old, specific time periods will kick in from the time the minor turns eighteen. A minor will have a statute of limitations for up to ten years for felonies such as bigamy, injuring a child or human trafficking. A longer time span of twenty years is applied for specific burglary or sexual assault crimes.
However, not all felonies have an expiration date for prosecution. The most serious felonies actually can be prosecuted without any time limit. Many crimes relating to the taking of human life and sexual assault fall under this category. A person who commits murder or manslaughter could be prosecuted at any time, as well as a case where someone commits a hit and run that results in the death of a person. Texas law will also prosecute anyone who continuously abuses young children, commits human trafficking or compels prostitution.
It is important to note that specific crimes, while they may qualify for a limitation of time to prosecute, could possess exceptions to a statute of limitations depending on the severity of the crime. Injuring a disabled or an elderly individual falls under a statute lasting for five years, but only if the act cannot be punished as a first degree felony under Section 22.04 of Texas law. Exceptions may have longer statutes or may be eligible for prosecution at any time.
This article is written for the educational benefit of the reader and does not offer any legal advice.