Texas Criminal Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of limitations set time limits for prosecutors to file criminal charges in Texas. Violent crimes usually have longer statutes of limitations, and some crimes (like murder) have no time limit—meaning a criminal case can be filed at any time.

By , Attorney | Updated by Kelly Martin, Attorney

In most circumstances, prosecutors have a limited amount of time to charge someone with a crime. Failing to file charges within the time limits—called "statutes of limitations"—can result in the case being dismissed. Read on to learn about Texas's statutes of limitations for several types of 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 can usually have the case dismissed.

How Long After a Crime Can Charges Be Filed in Texas?

In Texas and most other states, the time limits depend on the offense level or the specific crime. Violent crimes generally have longer statutes of limitations, and some crimes (like murder and sexual assault of a child) have no statute of limitations—meaning a criminal case can be filed at any time. In some situations, statutes of limitations are "tolled" (suspended), allowing the government more time to bring a case.

Can the Statute of Limitations Change?

Lawmakers can and do change limitations periods. For example, in 2007, the Texas legislature changed the time limit for charging sexual assault on a child from a set number of years to no time limit at all.

Whether changes apply to past crimes depends on a couple of factors and can be complicated. Importantly, a new time limit doesn't apply if the prosecutor had already run out of time to file the charges before the change.

You might want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about a specific statute of limitations.

Texas's Statutes of Limitations for Felonies and Misdemeanors

Like many states, Texas 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:

(Tex. Crim. Proc. Code §§ 12.01, 12.02 (2022).)

Statutes of Limitations for Specific Crimes in Texas

Below are examples of time limits for specific felony crimes in Texas. 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.

Time Limits for Murder, Manslaughter, and Homicide in TX

Time Limits for Sexual Assault (Rape) Offenses in TX

  • Sexual assault of a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child (younger than 17): no time limit
  • Continuous sexual abuse of young child or children (younger than 14): no time limit
  • Sexual assault offenses where probable cause exists to believe the defendant has committed similar sex offenses against five or more victims: no time limit
  • Sexual assault offenses where DNA was collected but hasn't yet been tested or hasn't identified the perpetrator: no time limit
  • Other felony sexual assault offenses: 10 years after the crime

Time Limits for Human Trafficking and Prostitution Offenses in TX

  • Sex trafficking of a child (younger than 18): no time limit
  • Continuous trafficking of persons: no time limit
  • Compelling prostitution of a child (younger than 18): no time limit
  • Compelling prostitution (adult): 10 years after the crime
  • Trafficking of persons (adults): 10 years after the crime

Time Limits for Felony Theft and Fraud Offenses in TX

  • Theft by a fiduciary: 10 years after the crime
  • Theft of government property by a public servant: 10 years after the crime
  • Forgery: 10 years after the crime
  • Misapplication of fiduciary property: 7 years after the crime
  • Financial exploitation of a child (14 and younger), elderly person (65 and older), or disabled individual: 7 years after the crime
  • Felony tax code violation: 7 years after the crime
  • Credit or debit card abuse: 7 years after the crime
  • Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information: 7 years after the crime
  • Health care fraud: 7 years after the crime
  • Insurance fraud: 5 years after the crime
  • Other felony theft or robbery: 5 years after the crime

(Tex. Crim. Proc. Code § 12.01 (2022).)

When Does the Statute of Limitations Start in Texas?

Generally, the statute of limitations starts when the crime occurs. But in circumstances where it's difficult to discover the crime or a particular kind of victim might be scared to report it, the law might delay the starting of the time clock.

For instance, Texas law doesn't start the clock for certain crimes committed against a child until the victim reaches adulthood. Some examples include charges for:

  • aggravated kidnapping with intent to sexually assault: the time limit is 20 years from victim's 18th birthday
  • trafficking for forced labor or services: the time limit is 10 years from victim's 18th birthday, and
  • injury to a child: the time limit is 10 years from victim's 18th birthday.

Also, if a person tries to "evade" (avoid) arrest for a crime, the law gives the prosecutor extra time to file charges. In Texas, the statute of limitations is tolled while the defendant is absent from the state.

(Tex. Crim. Proc. Code § 12.05 (2022).)

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 limitation period could apply. Consult a knowledgeable attorney in your area to understand how the statutes of limitations apply in a specific case.

Talk to a Lawyer

Start here to find criminal defense lawyers near you.

How it Works

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

Talk to a Defense attorney

We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

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