Arkansas Criminal Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations set time limits for prosecutors to bring charges in a criminal case. Learn the time limits for filing criminal cases in Arkansas.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated January 22, 2024

Like most states, Arkansas sets time limits for the government to begin a criminal case against a suspect. These time limits—called statutes of limitations—put an end to a case even if a defendant is guilty. This article will briefly review how Arkansas' statutes of limitations work and what they are for several crimes.

What Are Criminal Statutes of Limitations?

Statutes of limitations set time limits for the government to bring criminal charges in a case. If the applicable time period has passed, the prosecutor can't try the case and the court has no authority to hear it.

(Hunter v. Payne, 666 S.W.3d 76 (Ark. 2023).)

How Long After a Crime Can Charges Be Filed in Arkansas?

In Arkansas (and most other states), the time limits depend on the offense level or the specific crime. For instance, a prosecutor might have six years to file most felony charges but only one year to file misdemeanor charges. Violent crimes generally have longer statutes of limitations, and some crimes (like murder or child rape) have no statute of limitations—meaning a criminal case can be filed at any time. In certain instances, statutes of limitations are "tolled" (suspended), allowing the government more time to bring a case. (More on "tolling" below.)

Can the Statutes of Limitations Change?

Yes, lawmakers can change limitation periods. For example, they could change the statute of limitations for arson from 6 to 10 years. But whether changes apply to past crimes depends on a couple of factors. Importantly, a new time limit created by the legislature doesn't apply if the government has already run out of time to file the charges.

The Arkansas Legislature has amended (changed) its law on statutes of limitations several times. You might want to consult an attorney if you have questions on a particular issue.

Statutes of Limitations for Felonies and Misdemeanors in Arkansas

Like many states, Arkansas law sets time limits for a host of specific crimes. For crimes not specifically listed in the statute, a general statute of limitations applies based on offense level.

The general time limits are:

  • 6 years for Class Y and A felonies
  • 3 years for Class B, C, and D felonies and unclassified felonies, and
  • 1 year for misdemeanors and violations.

(Ark. Code § 5-1-109 (2024).)

Statutes of Limitations for Specific Crimes in Arkansas

Below are examples of time limits for specific crimes in Arkansas. Keep in mind that the following is a partial list that broadly summarizes the law. You should look at the actual law for nuances, exceptions, and legislative changes.

Statutes of Limitations for Murder, Manslaughter, and Homicide

  • Capital murder: no time limit
  • First-degree murder and second-degree murder: no time limit
  • Manslaughter: 3 years after the crime
  • Vehicular homicide: 3 years after the crime

Statutes of Limitations for Rape and Sex Offenses

  • Rape of minor (younger than 18) or felony sexual indecency involving a child (age varies): no time limit
  • Sexual assault in the first degree: no time limit
  • Sexual assault in the second degree involving a minor: no time limit
  • Incest involving a minor: no time limit
  • Sexual assault in the third degree or fourth degree committed against a minor: time limit expires upon the victim turning 28 if the crime was not reported to authorities by that time; otherwise, once reported, the general time limit for the offense level applies.

Statutes of Limitations for Fraudulent Insurance Acts

  • Insurance fraud: 3 years after completion of the last act to commit fraud
  • Motor vehicle insurance fraud: 5 years after purposely causing an accident to file an insurance claim

(Ark. Code § 5-1-109 (2024).)

When Does the Statutes of Limitations Start in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, the statute of limitations starts the day after the crime occurs. The clock stops when a person is arrested, a judge issues an arrest warrant, or the prosecutor files criminal charges or an indictment.

But in circumstances where it's difficult to discover the crime or a victim might be particularly scared to report it, the law might delay the starting of the time clock or extend the limitations period. Below are some examples.

DNA Evidence

Arkansas law provides that there's no time limit for prosecution if DNA evidence implicates a person in a crime.

Certain Crimes Against Minors

The law extends a prosecutor's window to charge certain crimes committed against minors. For any of the following offenses that have not been reported to authorities, the time clock doesn't begin to run until the victim turns 18:

  • battery in the first and second degrees
  • aggravated assault
  • terroristic threats in the first degree
  • kidnapping
  • false imprisonment in the first degree, and
  • permanent detention or restraint.

Domestic Violence Offenses

For certain domestic violence offenses that happened after July 28, 2021, the limitations period is extended by three or five years if the state discovers any of the following types of evidence that tie the defendant to the crime:

  • DNA evidence
  • audio, video, or photographic evidence
  • written or electronic communications
  • a confession, or
  • evidence of similar crimes presented by three or more persons also victimized by the defendant.

These crimes include domestic battering in the first, second, and third degrees, as well as aggravated and first-degree assault on a family or household member.

Misconduct in Public Office

A concealed offense involving felony conduct by a public servant can be prosecuted within five years after the sooner of:

  • the person leaving office or employment, or
  • the offense being discovered or should have been discovered.

The maximum extension is 10 years from when the misconduct occurred.

Insurance Fraud and Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Arkansas delays starting the time clock, up to a maximum of three years, if discovery of fraud was not reasonably possible at the time the fraud was committed. For motor vehicle insurance fraud involving an intentional accident, the extension goes up to a maximum of 10 years.

Any offense involving fraud or breach of fiduciary duty can be prosecuted within one year after the offense is discovered or should have been discovered.

Fleeing the State

Also, if a person tries to "evade" (avoid) arrest for a crime, the law gives the prosecutor extra time to file charges. In Arkansas, the statute of limitations doesn't run while the defendant is absent from the state or has no place of abode or work in the state, for up to three years.

(Ark. Code § 5-1-109 (2024).)

Time to Talk to a Lawyer

Statutes of limitations can be confusing, especially when exceptions apply. Also, a crime that results in several charges could have more than one limitations period. Consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to understand how the statutes of limitations apply in a specific case.

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