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 Mississippi and most other states, violent crimes generally have longer statutes of limitations, and some crimes (like murder and 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.
Like many states, Mississippi law sets time limits for a host of specific crimes. For crimes not specifically listed in the statute, the statute of limitations is two years after the crime (for both felonies and misdemeanors).
(Miss. Code § 99-1-5 (2019).)
Below are examples of time limits for specific crimes in Mississippi. 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. (Any 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, the law might delay the starting of the time clock or extend the limitations period. In Mississippi, the statute of limitations won’t prevent someone from being prosecuted if that person absconds (hides) or flees from justice or leaves the state in order not to be found.
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.