Maryland Criminal Statute of Limitations

Criminal statutes of limitations provide time limits for prosecutors to file charges in a criminal case. In Maryland, prosecutors can file felony charges at any time and most misdemeanors within one year of the offense.

By , Attorney
Updated July 02, 2020

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.

Statute of Limitations: Felonies and Misdemeanors

In Maryland, felony crimes have no statutes of limitations—meaning a felony criminal case can be filed at any time. (Smallwood v. State, 51 Md. App. 463 (1986).) Most misdemeanors must be charged by the prosecutor within one year of the crime unless the law provides an exception, of which there are many (see below).

Sidenote: Decades ago, Maryland law punished certain misdemeanors with time in a penitentiary and allowed charges for these "penitentiary misdemeanors" to be filed at any time. The Maryland General Assembly has since eliminated all penitentiary misdemeanors. While the statute of limitations continues to reference them, the reference is now obsolete. (Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-106 (2020); Massey v. State, 579 A.2d 265 (Md. App. 1990).)

Exceptions to the One-Year Time Limit for Misdemeanors

Below are examples of Maryland misdemeanors that fall outside the general one-year charging time limit. Keep in mind that the following is a partial list that broadly summarizes the law. You should look at the actual law for nuances and exceptions. (Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-106 (2020); Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law § 7-104 (2020).)

Misdemeanor Crimes Against Vulnerable Persons

  • Abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult: 2 years after the crime
  • Sex offense by someone in a position of authority if victim was a minor: 3 years after the crime

Misdemeanor Driving Under the Influence

  • Operating a motor vehicle or vessel under the influence: 3 years after the crime

Misdemeanor Theft, Fraud, and Forgery

  • Theft (value of property less than $1,500): 2 years after the crime
  • Fundraising or charitable solicitations fraud: 3 years after the crime
  • Straw sales of firearms: 3 years after the crime
  • Computer crimes: 3 years after the crime

Misdemeanor Government-Related Theft or Fraud

  • Public ethics violation: 2 years after the crime
  • Misconduct of public official: 2 years after the crime
  • Election crimes: 3 years after the crime
  • Tax violation: 3 years after the crime
  • Unlawfully using or fraud in applying for a driver's license: 2 years after the crime

Time to Talk to a Lawyer

Statutes of limitations are confusing to say the least. The same conduct can be the basis for multiple criminal charges, meaning that more than one limitations period could apply. And because lawmakers can make changes to statutes of limitations, the time limit currently in law might not apply to a past crime. Consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to understand how the statutes of limitations apply in a specific case.

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