Statute of Limitations in North Carolina for Criminal Offenses

A statute of limitations is a legally determined time frame in which legal actions can be taken. In civil court, a statute of limitations determines how long an individual has to make a claim against another party, but in criminal offenses, the statute of limitations sets the time frame for how long a prosecutor has to bring an individual up on charges for the crime. While the North Carolina General Statute outlines them in G.S. 15-1, we understand the legal jargon can be difficult. To help you, our criminal defense attorneys in Raleigh are breaking down the statute of limitations in North Carolina for criminal offenses and what this could mean for you.

Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors

In North Carolina, misdemeanors are divided into four classes and are punishable by fines, probation, or, in the most serious cases, up to 150 days in jail. Common misdemeanors include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Possession of marijuana
  • Concealing goods in a store
  • Simple assault
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Violating a restraining order
  • Larceny

Typically, a prosecutor has two years from the date the crime occurred to charge an individual for a misdemeanor, though there are exceptions

Misdemeanor Against a Minor

In 2019, the General Assembly passed a law that would extend the statute of limitations to 10 years if the misdemeanor involved abuse against a child. This includes:

  • Sexual battery of a minor
  • Indecent liberties with children
  • Child abuse
  • Failure to report child abuse
  • Failure to report crimes committed against a child

Malicious Misdemeanors

If the charge is deemed a malicious misdemeanor, meaning the accused was acting with malice when carrying out the crime, there is no statute of limitations. However, the General Statute does not clearly define what a malicious misdemeanor is and the term is considered archaic. Because of the vagueness of the statute, there are no modern cases that use this exception in order to extend the statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations for Felonies

North Carolina is one of the few states in the country that does not have a statute of limitations on felonies, and a prosecutor can file charges at any time against the accused. While most charges that are brought decades after the crime is committed are related to violent crime, including rape, sexual assault, or murder, the General Statute does not have any exceptions. Even Class I felony charges, such as breaking into a car or possession with intent to distribute marijuana, can be brought years after the crime occurred.

Hiring a Defense Attorney for Old Crimes

If you are facing an investigation or have had charges brought for a crime that was committed years ago, you need to secure a criminal defense attorney immediately. Often, prosecutors will file charges in a misdemeanor case that occurred well outside the statute of limitations, and it’s up to the defense to move to have the charges dismissed. For more serious crimes, a defense attorney knows how to find witnesses, examine the evidence, and build a defense strategy for a crime that was committed decades ago.

Schedule a Consultation with a Criminal Defense Attorney in Raleigh

At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, we represent clients in Raleigh, Wake County, and Franklin County. Call us at 919-887-8040 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to speak with an attorney or fill out the form below to schedule a free case consultation.

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