A Team of Highly Experienced General Practitioners
Ready to Represent You
Schedule a Consultation
Client and Male lawyers having meeting in office

Pennsylvania Criminal Statutes of Limitations

Adams Kearney Law June 17, 2024

For anyone facing or considering criminal allegations, the criminal statutes of limitations can significantly impact your rights. These statutes set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. Understanding the statutes of limitations can help you make more informed decisions about any legal actions or responses needed.  

At Adams Kearney Law, located in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, we are dedicated to serving the community, including Delaware County, Chester County, and beyond, with knowledgeable legal counsel. Below, we'll explore what these statutes are, how they function, and why they exist, along with detailed information specific to Pennsylvania. 

What Are Criminal Statutes of Limitations? 

Criminal Statutes of Limitations establish deadlines for prosecuting crimes. They are designed to ensure timely prosecution and help preserve the integrity of evidence. Over time, memories fade, evidence may deteriorate, and witnesses might become unavailable. These statutes aim to balance the interests of both the state and the accused by encouraging prompt investigation and prosecution. 

Why Are Statutes of Limitations Employed for Criminal Offenses? 

Statutes of limitations protect individuals from facing perpetual uncertainty regarding potential criminal charges. They also encourage law enforcement to act swiftly and avoid stale cases where evidence might no longer be reliable. Additionally, these statutes uphold the principle that there should be a reasonable limit to how long someone can be held accountable for past actions. 

Pennsylvania's Approach to Criminal Statutes of Limitations 

Our state has specific time frames based on the severity and nature of the offense. For instance, crimes that pose a severe threat to public safety often have longer statutes of limitations, while minor infractions may have a shorter window for legal action. 

Some key time limitations include: 

  • Misdemeanor offenses generally carry a two-to-five-year statute of limitations. Certain misdemeanors with elements of fraud or breach of fiduciary duty may have extended periods.

  • Felony offenses can have statutes of limitations extending up to five years or more, depending on the gravity of the crime. Specific serious felonies (e.g., sexual offenses involving minors): up to the victim's 50th birthday or later 

  • Major offenses such as murder or manslaughter do not have a statute of limitations. 

  • Summary offenses, which refer to minor legal violations typically punishable through fines rather than jail time, generally have a 30-day statute of limitations. These offenses are considered less serious than misdemeanors and felonies and generally include acts such as traffic violations, public intoxication, and petty theft. 

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations typically starts when the crime is discovered or should have been discovered through due diligence. This means the clock begins ticking not necessarily at the time the crime was committed, but when authorities or victims become aware of it. This is particularly relevant in cases involving ongoing fraud or concealed offenses. 

Understanding the Criminal Statutes of Limitations in Pennsylvania is important for anyone involved in or affected by criminal proceedings. These statutes ensure prosecutions occur within a reasonable time frame, balancing the need for justice with the accused's rights. If you have specific questions or need legal advice, consulting with a legal professional who specializes in Pennsylvania criminal law is highly recommended. 

How Can Adams Kearney Law Help? 

At Adams Kearney Law, we diligently protect the rights of our clients while addressing criminal law matters, including the statutes of limitations. Sensitive to the nuances of time-sensitive legal matters, our team works collaboratively to review individual cases, advise on the applicability of statutes of limitations, and represent clients' interests vigorously. 

Here are ways we assist our clients: 

  • Providing a comprehensive evaluation of your case

  • Understanding how the statute of limitations might apply

  • Crafting strategic legal approaches tailored to your unique circumstances

Contact Adams Kearney Law for Guidance 

If you're in Ridley Park or the surrounding areas and find yourself in need of legal guidance regarding criminal charges or the statutes of limitations, our doors are open. We invite you to reach out to Adams Kearney Law, where we are committed to upholding justice and advocating for our clients.  

To discuss how the statutes of limitations might affect your case, or for any other legal inquiries, visit our website or call us directly. Together, we'll work toward safeguarding your rights and interests. Our team is ready to assist and support you every step of the way. Contact us today for a thorough review of your case.