New York Criminal Statute of Limitations

If the state tries to prosecute someone after the applicable time period has passed, the person charged can have the case dismissed.

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 York and most other states, 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.

Time Limits: Categories and Specific Crimes

Like many states, New York’s law 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:

Below are examples of time limits for specific crimes in New York. 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. (N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 30.10 (2019).)

Crime

Time Limit

Aggravated murder

Murder in the first and second degrees

Kidnapping in the first degree

Predatory sexual assault against a child

Rape in the first degree

Criminal sexual act in the first degree

Aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree

Course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree

Incest in the first degree

Terrorism resulting in, or creating likely risk of, death or serious personal injury

No time limit

Rape in the second degree

Criminal sexual act in the second degree

Incest in the second degree

The earlier of:

20 years after the crime, or

10 years after the crime is first reported to police

Rape in the third degree

Criminal sexual act in the third degree

10 years after the crime

Course of sexual conduct against a child in the second degree

5 years after the most recent act

Misconduct in public office

While person is still in office or within 5 years after leaving office (with limitations)

Time Clock: Starting and Stopping

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. For instance, New York’s law doesn’t start the clock for many sexual offenses committed against children until the victim turns 23 or the crime is reported to the authorities, whichever is earlier.

Also, if a person tries to “evade” (avoid) arrest for a crime, the law gives the prosecutor extra time to file charges. In New York, the statute of limitations is tolled—up to five years—while a defendant continuously remains out of state or otherwise can’t be found.

Time to Talk to a Lawyer

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.

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