Statute of Limitations for Common Crimes

The filing of criminal charges allows states such as Nevada to hold people accountable when they break the law. The charge represents an accusation that you have violated society’s rules, as expressed through various statutes.

But the law also puts limitations on the government. For example, in almost every instance, prosecutors have a limited amount of time in which they can file charges. This is the law known as the statute of limitations.

In Nevada, as in other states, the prescribed statute of limitations covers civil and criminal cases. The timing may vary depending on the nature of the criminal offense or the type of lawsuit.

Here’s a primer on the statute of limitations for common crimes in Nevada and how it gets applied.

What’s the Purpose of a Statute of Limitations?

Las Vegas Courthouse Gavel

Court Gavel – Judge’s Gavel – Courtroom by wp paarz is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

A statute of limitations is a law that prevents civil claims or criminal charges from proceeding if they are filed after a specific time has elapsed. Statutes of limitations have been a cornerstone in our justice system for more than a century.

They exist as a matter of fairness for the accused. Over time, witnesses move away, die, or their recollections become fuzzy. Pieces of physical evidence can get lost. The passage of time makes it more challenging to defend yourself. Statutes of limitations also help bring efficiency to the court system by requiring parties to act instead of using time as a tactic.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Work?

The time periods of statutes of limitations will vary depending on the crime. The most severe crimes have the longest limitation periods. The time frame referenced in a statute of limitation generally begins to run on the date of a particular incident, though that can also be a matter for debate in court. There are exceptions within specific laws, such as those pertaining to child sexual abuse, which can take many years to come to light. Most statutes of limitations include language allowing for situations where the parties knew or should have known of an incident.

Statute of Limitations for Common Crimes in Nevada

The statute of limitations on crimes in Nevada runs as short as a year and as long as several decades. In general, most felonies carry a limitation of three years. Here’s an overview of the statute of limitation on certain offenses according to the Nevada Revised Statutes:

  • Assault with a deadly weapon: three years.
  • Felony battery: three years.
  • Theft: four years.
  • Robbery: four years.
  • Burglary: four years.
  • Forgery: four years.
  • Arson: four years.
  • Kidnapping: three years.
  • Sexual assault: 20 years.

Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors

Less severe crimes categorized as misdemeanors have a shorter statute of limitations: one year for standard misdemeanors and two years for gross misdemeanors. Here are a few examples of misdemeanors and their statute of limitations:

  • Disorderly conduct: one year.
  • Indecent exposure: two years.
  • Unlawful use of a hotel key: two years.
  • Making false statements to obtain a credit card: two years.
  • Battery: one year if charged as a simple misdemeanor; two years if charged as a gross misdemeanor.
  • Shoplifting: one year.
  • Traffic tickets: one year.

Crimes with No Statute of Limitations in Nevada

Some offenses are considered so serious under the law that the legislature allows them to be prosecuted at any time. There is no prescribed statute of limitations in Nevada for:

  • Murder.
  • Committing an act of terrorism.
  • Attempting to commit an act of terrorism.
  • Sexual assault in the course of a murder or an action of terrorism.

These offenses are considered Class A felonies and, under certain circumstances, can include a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes

Lawmakers in Nevada and other states recognize that some crimes have special considerations that require a different approach to the statute of limitations. These offenses are often committed in secret against vulnerable people. They may not come to light in enough detail in time to be prosecuted under the statute of limitations.

For instance, the general statute of limitations for sexual assault is 20 years. But sexual assault is a crime that may take a long time to investigate. Consequently, if a victim files a police report about the sexual assault within that ordinary statute of limitations, then prosecutors can file charges at any time. The same rule applies to the crime of sex trafficking. As long as it is reported to the police, there is no statute of limitations.

Another circumstance where the statute of limitations does not apply is when the identity of the person charged with sexual assault is established through DNA protocols.

State of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse

Special rules apply to crimes of child sexual abuse because of the offense’s nature and the victim’s vulnerability. The statute of limitations in these cases hinges on the victim’s age. Prosecutors have until victims turn 36 years old to file charges, as long as the victims discover that they were victims before they reach that age. Prosecutors have until victims turn 43 years old to file charges in an instance when they could not have discovered they were victimized by child sexual abuse.

Get Experienced Legal Counsel from De Castroverde Law Group

If you are charged with a crime or believe you are under investigation for one, it’s time to consult with an experienced criminal law attorney. The De Castroverde Law Group team includes former government prosecutors who understand how the criminal justice system works, including the elements impacting the statute of limitations. We will work closely with you to determine your case’s facts, help you collect evidence to build a defense, and represent you at every stage to ensure your rights are fully protected.

Our team has experience in all forms of criminal practice areas, including arson, battery, bad checks, pre-file investigations, professional licensing and disciplinary proceedings, casino markers, and numerous others. Call us or contact us online today for an immediate consultation.