Statute of Limitations on Warrants

Felony and misdemeanor warrants are often issued by the judge were the defendant may not even know that they were required to be in court. These warrants are issued for “failure to appear.” These warrants usually occur after a person is arrested and released without criminal charges being filed at the time of the initial appearance. These persons often assume the criminal charges will therefore never be filed. This can be a terribly serious mistake. Prosecutors do not have to file criminal charges at the date and time set for the initial court appearance. The statute of limitations for misdemeanor criminal offenses is usually one year from the date of the alleged commission of the crime. The statute of limitations for low-level felony matters is usually three years from the alleged date of the offense. Other felony matters have an eight year statute of limitations, and still others do not have a limitations period, such as murder. Prosecutors can file criminal charges at any time during the statute limitations period.

In any event, the defendant who was not subject to charges that the initial appearance may be unaware that charges were later filed. The prosecutors who file these charges may simply send a letter to the last known address for the defendant. The letter is intended to direct a defendant to appear in court on the charges. Of course, the letter may never be received by the defendant. The letter may be returned unclaimed, and malicious roommate may dispose of the letter, or the letter may have been lost. The court will issue a warrant for failure to appear in these situations. Of course, other persons may unknowingly become subject to a warrant, where law enforcement cannot find them to effectuate an arrest for case that they had been investigating. In any case, the statute of limitations of the underlying offense will not apply. There may exist, however  grounds to dismiss for violation of a defendant’s speedy trial rights. Contact us for advice in this area.