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 New Jersey, certain crimes (like murder, sexual assault, and terrorism) have no statute of limitations—meaning a criminal case can be filed at any time. New Jersey also provides extra time to file charges in cases involving crimes by government officials and environmental crimes. In certain instances, statutes of limitations are "tolled" (suspended), allowing the prosecution more time to bring a case.
Like many states, New Jersey 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:
(N.J. Stat. §§ 2C:1-6; 39:5-3; 39:6B-2 (2020).)
Below are examples of time limits for specific crimes in New Jersey. 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.
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. For instance, New Jersey law stops the clock when DNA evidence or fingerprint analysis is available from the crime. The statute of limitations' clock doesn't begin to run until the prosecution has possession of the evidence needed to establish the suspect's identity.
Fleeing justice. Also, if a person tries to flee from justice, the law stops the time clock from running on the statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations can be confusing, especially when multiple crimes are involved or exceptions apply. Consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to understand how the statutes of limitations apply in a specific case.