Louisiana Criminal Statute of Limitations

Louisiana sets time limits—called statutes of limitations—for prosecutors to bring criminal charges in a case. Some crimes, like murder and first-degree rape, have no time limit and can be prosecuted at any time.

By , Attorney

Statutes of limitations set time limits for the government 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 Louisiana and most other states, violent crimes generally have longer statutes of limitations, and some crimes (like capital offenses) 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.

Statutes of Limitations: Felonies and Misdemeanors

Like many states, Louisiana'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:

  • six years for felonies punishable by hard labor
  • four years for felonies not necessarily punishable by hard labor ("with or without hard labor")
  • two years for misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment, and
  • six months for fine-only misdemeanors.

(La. Code Crim. Proc. arts. 571 to 577 (2019); State v. Aucoin, 457 So.2d 885 (La. Ct. App. 1984).)

Statute of Limitations: Specific Crimes

Below are examples of time limits for specific crimes in Louisiana. 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.)

Murder, Manslaughter, and Homicide

  • Murder: no time limit
  • Manslaughter: 6 years after the crime
  • Negligent homicide: 4 or 6 years after the crime, depending on the possible sentence.

Rape and Sex Offenses

  • First-degree rape: no time limit
  • Forcible or second-degree rape: no time limit
  • Certain sex offenses involving victim younger than 17: 30 years after victim turns 18
  • Third-degree rape: six years after offense

Theft-Related Offenses

  • Armed robbery, first-degree robbery, carjacking: 6 years after the crime
  • Felony theft (involving $25,000 or more): 6 years after the crime
  • Felony theft (involving $1,000 to $25,000): 4 years after the crime
  • Misdemeanor theft (less than $1,000 in value): 2 years after the crime

Tolling the Statute of Limitations

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.

DNA Evidence in Sex Offense Cases

Louisiana law allows any sex offense case where DNA evidence is available to be prosecuted within three years of establishing the suspect's identity using DNA evidence.

Misconduct in Office, Employment, or Fiduciary Role

In Louisiana, the time clock for the following crimes doesn't start until the relationship or status involved ends:

  • misappropriation of money or a thing of value by a person entrusted to its control by virtue of office, employment, or fiduciary relationship
  • extortion or false accounting committed by a public officer or employee in their official capacity, and
  • public bribery (involving public officers, employees, or officials, jurors, witnesses, or elected officials)

Exploitation of Persons With Infirmities

The law also delays starting the time clock for exploitation of persons with infirmities until a competent victim or third party discovers the crime. Examples of persons with infirmities include: adults with disabilities, persons age 60 or older, and residents of nursing homes, mental health facilities, or hospitals. The crime of exploitation applies to the fraudulent or nonconsensual use of the person's assets or property.

Fleeing the State

Also, if a person tries to "evade" (avoid) arrest or prosecution by fleeing or remaining outside the state, the law gives the prosecutor extra time to file charges. In Louisiana, the statute of limitations doesn't run any time while the defendant is absent from the state.

Time to Talk to a Lawyer

Statutes of limitations are confusing to say the least. Plus, the same conduct can be the basis for multiple criminal charges, meaning that more than one limitations period could apply. Consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to understand how the statutes of limitations apply in a specific case.

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