Statute of Limitations in Texas: A Complete Guide
A statute of limitations is the period of time in which charges can be brought against an individual after an alleged crime has taken place. In Texas, statutes of limitations exist for both civil and criminal cases, but the length of the period differs depending on the severity of the alleged crime.
Furthermore, some crimes, like murder or manslaughter, are exempt from statutes of limitations. In other words, for very severe crimes, no matter how much time has passed since the date the crime was allegedly committed, the offender can still be charged. With this in mind, we’ve created this resource to help you understand how statutes of limitations work in Texas.
Why Do Statutes of Limitation in Texas Exist?
There are a few reasons why statutes of limitations exist in Texas. For a start, it ensures that criminal cases are treated as urgently and efficiently as possible before the limit is reached.
One of the most important reasons for the existence of statutes of limitations is that evidence can deteriorate over time. Treating cases in a timely manner helps to preserve the integrity of both incriminating and defensive evidence, hopefully resulting in a fairer trial. This is especially important for evidence presented in the form of eyewitness testimonies because they can become unreliable over time.
Statutes of limitations also decrease the chances of facts getting lost or obscured, simply because less time passes between the crime and trial.
More time is needed to collect evidence in some crimes, such as insurance fraud. For these types of alleged crimes, the statute of limitations is usually longer.
When There Is No Statute of Limitations in Place
There is no statute of limitations for some serious offenses in Texas. When there is no statute of limitations in place, defendants can be charged at any moment during their lifetimes for allegedly committing one of the following crimes:
- Murder or Manslaughter
- Sexual Assault and Offenses Against Young Children
- Leaving the Scene of an Accident That Resulted in Death
- Human Trafficking
- Compelling Prostitution
How Long Are the Statutes of Limitations in Texas?
The statutes of limitations vary depending on the type of crime and their severity, but they usually fall into categories of either 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, or 10 years. For some offenses, the statute of limitations can be 20 years starting from when the victim turns 18.
For example, for aggravated kidnapping with intent to commit a sexual offense, if the victim was under the age of 17, the statute of limitations is 20 years from the 18th birthday of the victim.
Felonies With a 3 Year Statute of Limitation
The statute of limitations for many felonies is 3 years. For example, for an enhanced DWI with a Child Passenger, the statute of limitations is 3 years. It’s also 3 years for Intoxication Assault, and Intoxication Manslaughter.
When the Statute of Limitations Is 5 Years
The statute of limitations is 5 years for the following allegations:
- Theft or robbery.
- Kidnapping or burglary, except as provided by Subdivision (5), where the victim is younger than 17 years of age at the time of the crime.
- Injury to an elderly or disabled individual, that is not punishable as a first-degree felony.
- Abandoning or endangering a child.
- Insurance fraud.
For these listed offenses, prosecutors have 5 years to bring charges against the defendant.
When the Statute of Limitations Is 7 Years
The statute of limitations is 7 years for the following allegations:
- Misapplication of fiduciary property, or property of a financial institution
- Fraudulent securing of document execution
- A felony violation under Chapter 162, Tax Code
- False statement for obtaining property or credit
- Money laundering
- Credit or debit card abuse
- Fraudulent use of possession of identifying information (ID theft)
- The exploitation of a child, elderly, or disabled individual
- Health care fraud
- Bigamy, under Section 25.01, Penal Code, unless the victim is under the age of 18 at the time of the offense, in which case the statute of limitations is 10 years from the 18th birthday of the victim.
For these listed offenses, prosecutors have 7 years to bring charges against the defendant.
When the Statute of Limitations Is 10 Years
The statute of limitations is 10 years for the following allegations:
- Theft of an estate by an executor, administrator, guardian, or trustee, with the intent to defraud any creditor, heir, legatee, ward, distribute, beneficiary, or settlor of a trust interested in said estate.
- Theft by a public servant of government property
- Injury to an elderly or disabled individual punishable as a first-degree felony
- Sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault (these charges are listed under both 10 year SOL and no SOL)
- Human trafficking
- Compelling prostitution
For these listed offenses, prosecutors have 10 years to bring charges against the defendant.
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending?
In most cases, a felony charge will be pending for three years. This is the minimum statute of limitations for a felony. However, if the statute of limitations is longer, the felony charges will remain pending for the entire period.
How Long Do the Police Have to File Charges in Texas?
Depending on the severity of the civil or criminal charges, different statutes of limitations apply. In other words, the police must file charges within the specified period for that offense.
For civil offenses such as libel or slander, Texas gives prosecutors a 1-year time limit in which they can press charges. For most misdemeanors, police have 2 years to press charges.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Texas for a Felony?
The statute of limitations for most felonies, unless specified otherwise, is 3 years. This means that prosecutors must press charges within 3 years from the date the alleged crime took place.
For some felonies, the statute of limitations can be 5, 7, or 10 years, and for the most severe, there is no time limit at all.
What Is the Statute of Limitations in Texas for a Misdemeanor?
The statute of limitations for misdemeanors in Texas is 2 years. This includes offenses such as DWI, DWI with open container, and DWI with a BAC of 0.15 or higher.
However, if child endangerment is involved, the charge would be a felony, and therefore the statute of limitations would be extended to 3 years.
What Crimes Have No Statute of Limitations in Texas?
There is no time limit on when the state can bring charges against a defendant for various severe crimes. These include:
- Murder or manslaughter
- Sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault
- Sexual assault of a child
- Serial and continuous sexual assaults
- Indecency with a child
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death
- Several human trafficking
- Compelling prostitution
For these listed crimes, prosecutors can press charges at any time during the defendant’s lifetime.
Statutes of limitations are the period between the commission of a crime and the last possible date where charges can be pressed against an individual. Statutes of limitations in Texas are in place to ensure that cases are treated as efficiently, and as fairly as possible.
Depending on the severity of a crime, and the length of time it may take to collect evidence, statutes of limitations can be 1 year, 2 years for misdemeanors, 3 years for most felonies, 5 years, 7 years, or 10 years. There are no limitations for some crimes.
If you are worried that you, or a loved one, may get charged with an offense, the best thing you can do is to speak to a skilled criminal defense lawyer who can answer your questions. Contact Michael & Associates today for a free case review.
Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.