Statutes of limitations set time limits for prosecutors to bring criminal charges in a case. If the prosecution charges someone after the applicable time period has passed, the person charged can have the case dismissed.
In Indiana and most other states, violent crimes generally have longer statutes of limitations, and some crimes (like murder) 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.
Note: Felonies in Indiana were reclassified in 2014. This article will refer to current felony classifications as of July 1, 2014 (Levels 1 to 6), with previous classifications identified in parenthesis (Classes A to D).
Like many states, Indiana's 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 the category of the crime. The general time limits are:
(Ind. Code § 35-41-4-2 (2019).)
Below are examples of time limits for specific crimes in Indiana. 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—and know that court rulings can affect the interpretation of the law. (Changes to limitations periods made by the legislature apply only to crimes not yet time-barred, and cannot revive cases where the statute of limitations has already expired.)
Generally, the statute of limitations starts when the crime occurs. 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.
Misconduct in public office. For instance, Indiana law extends a prosecutor's window to charge crimes for theft or conversion of public funds or bribery while in public office. The clock doesn't run during any time the elected or appointed official is in public office.
Securities violations. Indiana delays starting the time clock until the discovery of crimes involving commodities, loan brokers, securities, and the cemetery perpetual care fund. The five-year clock doesn't start to run until the state first discovers or should have discovered the crime.
DNA evidence. Indiana law also allows a prosecutor to bring a Level 3, 4, or 5 (Class B or C) felony that would otherwise be time-barred within one year after the state discovers or should have discovered evidence sufficient to charge the offender through DNA analysis.
Level 3 felony rape. Charges for Level 3 (Class B) felony rape that would otherwise be time-barred may be brought within five years after: (1) the state discovers evidence sufficient to charge the offender through DNA; (2) the state discovers a recording that provides evidence to charge the crime; or (3) a person confesses to the crime.
Evading prosecution. Also, if a person tries to "evade" (avoid) arrest for a crime, the law gives the prosecutor extra time to file charges. In Indiana, the statute of limitations doesn't run while the defendant is absent from the state, conceals him or herself, or conceals evidence of the offense.
Statutes of limitations are confusing to say the least. Consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to understand how the statutes of limitations apply in a specific case.