Indiana Criminal Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations set time limits for prosecutors to bring charges in a criminal case. Learn about the statute of limitations in Indiana.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated January 24, 2024

Like most states, Indiana sets time limits for the government to begin a criminal case against a suspect. These time limits—called statutes of limitations—may put an end to a case even if a defendant is guilty. This article will briefly review how Indiana's 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 defendant can ask the court to dismiss the expired charges.

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

In Indiana (and most other states), the time limits depend on the offense level or the specific crime. For instance, a prosecutor might have five years to file many felony charges but only two years to file misdemeanor charges. 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. (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 sex crimes from 10 to 25 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 Indiana General Assembly 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 Indiana

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.

  • Level 1 and 2 felonies have no time limits (they can be prosecuted at any time).
  • Level 3, 4, 5, and 6 felonies have a five-year time limit.
  • Misdemeanors have a two-year time limit.

(Ind. Code § 35-41-4-2 (2024).)

Statutes of Limitations for Specific Crimes in Indiana

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.

Murder, Manslaughter, and Homicide

  • Murder: no time limit
  • Voluntary manslaughter: no time limit
  • Involuntary manslaughter: 5 years after the crime
  • Reckless homicide: 5 years after the crime

Rape and Sex Crimes

  • Rape involving the use or threat of deadly force, committed while armed with a deadly weapon, resulting in substantial bodily injury, or facilitated by drugging a victim without the victim's knowledge: no time limit
  • Child molestation, solicitation, or seduction: before the victim turns 31
  • Sexual misconduct with a minor: before the victim turns 31
  • Sex offense (listed in § 11-8-8-405) committed against a child: 10 years after the offense or four years after the victim is no longer a dependent of the offender, whichever is later

Theft and Fraud-Related Offenses

  • Misuse of funeral trust funds or escrow account funds: 5 years after the death of the settlor or purchaser
  • Forgery of an instrument to pay money: 5 years after maturity of the forged instrument
  • Felony theft (value $750 or more): 5 years after the crime
  • Misdemeanor theft (value less than $750): 2 years after the crime

(Ind. Code § 35-41-4-2 (2024).)

When Does the Statute of Limitations Start in Indiana?

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 (called "tolling") 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.

Sex crimes. Charges for Level 3 (Class B) felony rape or criminal deviate conduct 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. The same five-year extension applies to certain sex crimes committed against children.

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 oneself, or conceals evidence of the offense.

The clock stops when the prosecutor files criminal charges, the grand jury issues an indictment, the date a valid arrest warrant is granted, or the date police arrest the suspect with probable cause.

(Ind. Code § 35-41-4-2 (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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