New Mexico Criminal Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations set time limits for prosecutors to file charges in criminal cases. Learn about these time limits in New Mexico.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated December 09, 2022

Like most states, New Mexico sets time limits for prosecutors to begin a criminal case against a suspect. These time limits—called statutes of limitations—can put an end to the case even if a defendant is guilty. This article will briefly review how New Mexico's statutes of limitations work and what they are for several crimes.

What Are Criminal Statutes of Limitations?

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.

How Long After a Crime Can Charges Be Filed in New Mexico?

In New Mexico and most other states, the time limits depend on the offense level or the specific crime. For instance, a prosecutor might have five years to file most felony charges but only one year to file misdemeanor charges. Violent crimes generally have longer statutes of limitations, and some crimes (like murder) 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. (More on "tolling" below.)

Can the Statutes of Limitations Change?

Lawmakers can change limitations periods. For example, they could change the statute of limitations for child sex crimes from 10 years to 25 years. But whether changes apply to past crimes depends on a couple of factors. Importantly, a new time limit created by the legislature doesn't apply if the prosecutor had already run out of time to file the charges.

The New Mexico Legislature has amended (changed) its law on statutes of limitations several times. You might want to consult with an attorney if you have questions on a particular issue.

New Mexico's Statutes of Limitations for Felonies and Misdemeanors

Like many states, New Mexico 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.

Capital felonies, first-degree violent felonies, and second-degree murder have no time limits and can be prosecuted at any time. Capital felonies include premeditated murder, felony murder (murder committed during the commission or attempted commission of a felony), and depraved mind murder. Examples of first-degree violent felonies include aggravated criminal sexual penetration, kidnapping, and abuse of a child resulting in great bodily harm.

Other felonies and misdemeanors. The general time limits for other crimes are:

  • 6 years for second-degree felonies
  • 5 years for third- and fourth-degree felonies
  • 2 years for misdemeanors, and
  • 1 year for petty misdemeanors.

No time limit provided. For any crimes not listed in the state's criminal code or where no time limit is provided, the time limit defaults to 3 years.

(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-1-8 to –9.2 (2022).)

New Mexico's Statute of Limitations for Specific Crimes

Below are examples of time limits for specific crimes in New Mexico. 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.

Statutes of Limitations for Murder and Manslaughter in NM

  • Murder in the first and second degrees: no time limit
  • Voluntary and involuntary manslaughter: 5 years after the crime

Statutes of Limitations for Sex Offenses in NM

  • Criminal sexual penetration in the first degree: no time limit
  • Criminal sexual penetration in the second degree: 6 years after the crime
  • Criminal sexual contact of an unclothed minor younger than 13: 6 years after the crime

Statutes of Limitations for Larceny (Theft) and Fraud in NM

  • Larceny or fraud in the second degree (more than $20,000): 6 years after the crime
  • Larceny or fraud in the third and fourth degrees (more than $500): 5 years after the crime
  • Misdemeanor larceny or fraud (more than $250): 2 years after the crime
  • Petty misdemeanor larceny or fraud ($250 or less): 1 year after the crime
  • Unemployment compensation fraud: 3 years after the crime
  • Identity theft: 5 years after the crime
  • Tax crimes and fraud: 5 years after the crime, or 5 years starting on December 31 for a series of crimes occurring in one calendar year

When Does the Statute of Limitations Start in New Mexico?

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.

Crimes against a child. For instance, New Mexico law doesn't start the clock for the following crimes until the victim turns 18 or the violation is reported to the police: abandonment or abuse of a child, criminal sexual penetration of a minor, and criminal sexual contact of a minor.

DNA evidence. The law also stops the clock in criminal sexual penetration cases where the suspect is unknown and DNA evidence is collected. The clock starts once a DNA profile matches a suspect.

Evading prosecution. Also, if a person tries to evade (avoid) arrest for a crime, the law gives the prosecutor extra time to file charges. In New Mexico, the statute of limitations doesn't run while the defendant conceals him or herself, is absent from the state, or is not a resident of the state.

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 limitation 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.

Talk to a Defense attorney
We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you