Pennsylvania Criminal Statute of Limitations

If the state fails to bring a case within the specified time period, it loses its right to prosecute for that crime forever.

Below are the statutes of limitation for criminal cases in Pennsylvania which set forth the time periods within which a legal proceeding must be commenced. If the state fails to bring a case within the specified time period, it loses its right to prosecute for that crime forever. In general, violent crimes have a longer statute of limitations, and with some crimes there is no statute of limitations. In certain instances, the statute of limitations may be tolled, or suspended, which grants the state additional time to commence a legal action.

Pa. Consol. Stat § 5551-5554

Offenses

Murder, voluntary manslaughter, conspiracy to commit murder or solicitation to commit murder if a murder results, any felony in connection with a murder of the first or second degree, vehicular homicide, aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer: no limit

Other offenses: two years

Fraud or breach of fiduciary duty: extension of one to three years

Offense by public officer or employee: extension of up to eight years

Sexual offense committed against a minor: the standard period of limitations for the offense will start when the minor turns 18 years, can prosecute until the end of that period or the time that the minor turns 50 years of age, whichever occurs later

Criminal attempt, criminal solicitation, criminal conspiracy, and certain other major offenses: within five years

Rape, sexual assault, incest, sexual abuse of children, and certain other major sexual offenses: within 12 years

DNA Evidence

For felonies and certain sexual offenses, if DNA evidence is obtained and used to identify an otherwise unidentified individual as the perpetrator, prosecution may be commenced within the original period of limitations or one year after the identity is determined, whichever is later.

Tolling Provisions

Except for certain summary offenses, the period of limitation is suspended when:

  • the accused is continuously absent from or has no reasonably ascertainable place of living or work in the state;
  • prosecution is underway in the state for the same conduct; or
  • a child is under 18 years of age and the crime involves certain injuries caused by the child's parents, by a person responsible for the child's welfare, or by a few other categories of individuals

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