Trusted Statute of Limitations Georgia Criminal Lawyers
The statute of limitations Georgia criminal governs how long the prosecution has to bring charges against people for crimes in Georgia. The amount of time varies depending on the type of crime.
Author: Joseph A. Conoscienti, Partner, Conoscienti & Ledbetter
Mr. Conoscienti specializes in criminal law but likewise has experience in general civil trial practice. Joseph Conoscienti is a part-time Associate Judge for the Municipality of Avonndale Estates, Georgia. Published on October 3, 2019, last updated on December 04, 2023.
When an individual has been accused of committing a crime, prosecutors have a specific timeframe within which to submit official charges against the alleged offender. This time frame is described as the statute of limitations.
The primary purpose of these limitations it to make sure convictions are acquired with proof, whether it’s eyewitness testament or physical evidence, that has not yet degraded. As in other states, criminal statute of limitations laws in Georgia permit longer time periods for rape, criminal offenses against minors, and other offenses where victims might not report the offense until years later.
Read on to learn more about the statute of limitations Georgia criminal from the trusted criminal defense attorneys at Conoscienti & Ledbetter.
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The statute of limitations Georgia criminal is a stated time duration within which the state needs to begin a case against somebody for a criminal activity. If the state attempts to bring an action against somebody after this time period has passed, the individual charged can usually have the case dismissed with the help of a criminal defense attorney who has a wide range of criminal defense practice areas.
For specific criminal activities such as murder, there is no statute of limitations and the state never ever loses its right to prosecute for the offense. For other crimes, the state may have as little as a year or two to begin their case, and the timer for the statute of limitations begins ticking as soon as the alleged crime is committed.
Some crimes, including murder, have no statute of limitations. However, other crimes that are punishable by death or life imprisonment have a statute of limitations of seven years. Most specific offenses do not have a predetermined statute of limitations, but the general guideline is that most felonies aside from rape, murder, or crimes against underage victims hold a statute of limitations of four years, whereas misdemeanors hold a statute of limitations of two years.
DUI Statute of Limitations Georgia
Most DUI offenses in Georgia are classified as a misdemeanor, which is why the statute of limitations for a DUI in Georgia is two years. Unless filed within two years, the prosecutor can not proceed to charge the defendant.
However, repeat DUI offenses can lead to a felony DUI charge, which holds a statute of limitations of four years. DUI offenses are considered a criminal matter, unlike more minor types of driving violations which are handled in the Dekalb County Traffic Court.
Georgia Rape Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for rape in Georgia is 15 years from the commission of the crime. However, the statute of limitations Georgia criminal becomes more complex when the victim is under the age of 18.
For low-level sexually-based felonies, the statute of limitations ends up being seven years rather than four when the alleged victim is younger than 18 years of age. In cases involving a sex crime against a minor, the statute of limitations does not start to run either until the alleged victim reaches 16 years of age or when the alleged victim reports the criminal offense, whichever takes place earlier. For victims 65 years or older, the statute of limitations does not start until the criminal activity is reported or found by the state.
Another essential exception occurs when DNA analysis is utilized to show the identity of the alleged criminal in major felonies including armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, and aggravated sexual battery. In these circumstances, the statute of limitations is voided, and the criminal activity can be prosecuted at any time.
Georgia’s statute of limitations is defined by O.C.G.A. 17-3-1 (2010). Below is an outline of the Georgia criminal code regarding the statute of limitations.
Statute of Limitations Criminal Code of Georgia
“17-3-1. Limitation on prosecutions — Generally
(a) A prosecution for murder may be commenced at any time.
(b) Prosecution for other crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment must be commenced within seven years after the commission of the crime except as provided by subsection (c.1) of this Code section; provided, however, that prosecution for the crime of forcible rape must be commenced within 15 years after the commission of the crime.
(c) Prosecution for felonies other than those specified in subsections (a), (b), and (c.1) of this Code section must be commenced within four years after the commission of the crime, provided that prosecution for felonies committed against victims who are at the time of the commission of the offense under the age of 18 years must be commenced within seven years after the commission of the crime.
(c.1) A prosecution for the following offenses may be commenced at any time when deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence is used to establish the identity of the accused:
(1) Armed robbery, as defined in Code Section 16-8-41;
(2) Kidnapping, as defined in Code Section 16-5-40;
(3) Rape, as defined in Code Section 16-6-1;
(4) Aggravated child molestation, as defined in Code Section 16-6-4;
(5) Aggravated sodomy, as defined in Code Section 16-6-2; or
(6) Aggravated sexual battery, as defined in Code Section 16-6-22.2;
provided, however, that a sufficient portion of the physical evidence tested for DNA is preserved and available for testing by the accused and provided, further, that, if the DNA evidence does not establish the identity of the accused, the limitation on prosecution shall be as provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this Code section.
(d) Prosecution for misdemeanors must be commenced within two years after the commission of the crime.”
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The statute of limitations is applied as soon as the criminal offense has occurred. This means that when the criminal offense has been taken place, the state has a set number of years to charge the individual. After the duration of the statute has ended, the accused individual is, in essence, free.
Identifying the beginning point for the limitations duration can be more difficult for ongoing criminal offenses that cover days, weeks, or longer. In these cases, the clock begins ticking when the criminal activity has ended.
The Georgia criminal statute of limitations can get even more complicated. In some cases, there’s a basic limitations time period for a set of broad criminal offenses like those discussed above, including misdemeanors, but there can be a more particular time period for a criminal activity within that set. Additionally, the statute of limitations might end for one criminal offense while leaving the offender available to prosecution for another– or for prosecution in a totally different jurisdiction. Other timing problems can arise in criminal cases, including the right to a quick trial.
Criminal Statute of Limitations Georgia Attorney
If you have been accused of a crime in Georgia, a criminal defense attorney will work tirelessly to protect your rights and defend you in court. Depending on how severe the crime is, a criminal conviction can restrict your freedom and have lifelong impacts on your daily life, but a criminal defense lawyer can help. If the statute of limitations has run and no exception applies, you could have your case dismissed.
If you are unsure about how the statute of limitations Georgia criminal apply to your circumstances, your best course of action is to seek advice from a skilled criminal defense attorney like those at Conoscienti & Ledbetter. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Are There Any Crimes in Georgia with No Statute of Limitations?
Under Georgia law, there are serious felonies for which no statute of limitations exists. This means that for certain crimes, there is no time limit on bringing charges. Notably, murder cases and felonies punishable by death or life imprisonment have no statute of limitations in Georgia.
Additionally, when a government officer commits a crime on public property, the Georgia statute allows for an extended period to file charges. For other felonies, general time limits apply, typically starting from when the crime occurred or, in some cases, from when it was discovered, whichever occurs earlier.
This absence of limitations in serious cases ensures that criminal charges can be formally charged irrespective of the time elapsed since the crime.
Individuals seeking more specific information or guidance can benefit from a free consultation with a legal professional, especially in Georgia criminal cases where understanding the nuances of limitations starts and limitations apply is crucial.