Prosecutors in the state of Georgia have a certain amount of time to prosecute crimes, known as the statute of limitations. There are strict time limits set with most crimes. However, there are is one that has no time limits.
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The reason a statute of limitations is issued in most cases is for the benefit of the defendant. If too much time passes before a charge is filed, the defendant may not have the opportunity to gather witnesses or evidence to help prove their case. As in most criminal court cases, the burden of proof is put on the prosecutor’s office, so if the prosecutor wants to see a judgment in a crime, they must gather their evidence and submit formal charges before the statute of limitations runs out.
Most felony crimes have a statute of limitations. Those include:
- Forcible rape: cases must be started within 15 years
- Cases punishable by death or life in prison: must be started within seven years
- Cases where the victim is a minor: must be started within seven years
- Other cases: must be started within four years
There are exceptions to the statute of limitations listed. For example, if the victim is younger than the age of 16 and crimes such as child molestation, incest, rape, or sodomy were committed, the “clock” for the statute of limitations starts when the victim turns 16 or when the crime is reported, whichever occurs first.
Misdemeanor crimes are considered not as severe as felony crimes. Examples of misdemeanor crimes include:
- Petty theft
- Traffic violations
- Domestic violence
Because these crimes are not considered as severe, the statute of limitations for these crimes is much shorter — only two years.
No Statute of Limitations
In Georgia, the crime that has no statute of limitations is all murder cases. There are several reasons for this including:
- The seriousness of the crime. One of the worst acts a human can do is killing another human. That’s why there is usually no argument by prosecutors when a person is charged with murder no matter how long ago the crime occurred.
- To stop someone who may have committed other crimes. If someone has been on the run for a while after committing murder, chances are they have committed other crimes before they were caught. By charging someone with murder, no matter when the original incident happened, law enforcement is keeping someone who could continue committing heinous acts off the streets.
- Justice for the innocent. Sometimes the wrong person is convicted for murder. If there was a statute of limitations for the crime, and it was found out years later that the wrong person had been convicted, time could run out to charge the real person responsible for the crime.
- Technological advancements. Technology continues to improve day by day. If there was a statute of limitation for murder, and the killer could not be identified until years later thanks to advancements in technology, then the killer would literally get away with murder. Because of technological advancements, families who once didn’t have closure over the death of a loved one are now able to breathe easier knowing someone could be charged.
It’s also important to note there are situations where the statute of limitations is not applicable. This includes:
- If you live outside the state of Georgia but the crime was committed in Georgia;
- The identity of the perpetrator is not known;
- The crime is unknown to authorities;
- The perpetrator is a government official or employee and is charged with theft by conversion of the property while they were working for the government; and,
- The perpetrator is a guardian or trustee and is charged with theft by conversion of the property by a ward or beneficiary.
Also, if the victim of any crime is 65 years or older at the time of the crime is committed, the time limit does not start until the crime is reported or discovered by law enforcement, whichever is earlier.
If you are facing criminal charges, you don’t want to wait to get legal help. The team at The Abt Law Firm, LLC is here for you during your time of need. Contact our office today so we can fight for you — (678) 582-2272.