North Carolina Criminal Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations set time limits for prosecutors to file criminal charges in a case. North Carolina prosecutors can file felony charges at any time, but they must file most misdemeanor charges within two years of the crime.

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 North Carolina, felony crimes have no statutes of limitations—meaning a felony criminal case can be filed at any time. Most misdemeanor cases must be charged by the prosecutor within two years of the crime. Exceptions to the two-year limit are noted below. (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15-1 (2020).)

Misdemeanors Involving Abuse and Sexual Assault Against Children

In 2019, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted a 10-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor crimes involving abuse against children. These time limits only apply to crimes committed after December 1, 2019. (If one of these crimes occurred before December 1, 2019, the time limit to file charges would still be two years.)

The 10-year time limit applies to the following misdemeanors:

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The expiration of a criminal statute of limitations does not automatically prevent a prosecutor from filing criminal charges in a case. The issue must be raised as a defense by the criminal defendant in court. If the defense fails to move for dismissal of charges based on the running of the limitations period, the prosecution moves forward. If you have any questions about criminal statute of limitations, consult a local criminal defense attorney.

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