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Illinois Laws Protecting An Accused Individual From Delayed Prosecutions

As a general rule, by the time police in Bloomington make an arrest, they have conducted a thorough investigation into the allegations and the circumstances that first brought the criminal matter to their attention. They may have identified witnesses and taken statements from them, obtained evidence proving details of the criminal activity and made a detailed inspection of the crime scene all before the individual who is the target of their attention is even aware that an investigation is under way.

By the time an arrest is made, the time police and prosecutors spent conducting their investigation could have resulted in considerable delays before attorneys representing the defendant could begin their investigative work. Because a defendant’s rights could be jeopardized due to unnecessary delays in the filing of criminal charges, Illinois has laws, known as the statute of limitations, have been enacted to safeguard the ability of the accused to prepare a proper defense.

Some serious criminal offenses do not have time limitations

There are certain crimes that do not have a statute of limitations. Some of the crimes that the law does not impose time limits for filing them include:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Reckless homicide
  • Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident in which someone has been killed or injured
  • Arson
  • Certain specified sex offenses

The law pertaining to time limitations on the filing of some sex offenses is complex. Whether or not the statute of limitations bars the filing of criminal charges could depend on factors such as how quickly the victim reported the crime to the police or if the victim was murdered during or within two years of commission of the sex offense.

Statute of limitations for other felonies and misdemeanors

Unless the law exempts a particular criminal act from having a time limit imposed upon police and prosecutors, the majority of felony offenses must be filed within three years from the date on which they were committed. The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is 18 months.

If the prosecution of a case is started after the expiration of the statute of limitations, the defense may ask a judge to dismiss the charges. A dismissal based upon a violation of the statute of limitations is normally not something that prosecutors can overcome.

The importance of getting legal advice about the statute of limitations

There could be some circumstances under which the statute of limitations might be extended. For example, the law allows courts to exclude the time during which a person accused of committing a crime is not residing in Illinois. The time during which a material witness, such as a police officer or eye witness is on active duty with the military is also excluded when computing the statute of limitations.

These and other complex legal issues associated with the statute of limitations in criminal cases can make it difficult to identify circumstances under which it could be part of the defense strategy in a particular case. A consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Illinois could address the questions and concerns a person charged with commission of a crime might have about the statute of limitations.

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