Michigan Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations sets the maximum delay before the government can bring felony or misdemeanor charges in Michigan.
Statute of Limitations for Criminal Cases – The Basics
The purpose and effect of the statute of limitations in criminal cases is to protect defendants from long-delayed prosecutions on felony or misdemeanor charges. Three reasons support the existence of these protections:
- that a plaintiff with good causes of action should pursue them promptly;
- that a defendant might have lost evidence to disprove a claim, and
- that prosecuting a case that has lingered for an extended period is cruel and inconsistent with justice.
The general rule is that the limitation period starts on the day the crime occurred. A violation of the Statute of Limitations will result in the dismissal of all charges.
Michigan 6-Year Statute of Limitations for Criminal Cases
If there is no specific designation regarding the statute of limitations related to a particular crime, the prosecutor must file the charge within six (6) years. This limitation applies to almost all felony and misdemeanor charges in Michigan.
Statutes of Limitations in criminal cases in Michigan are controlled by MCL 767.24, unless the specific crime contains its own limitations period. The statute of limitations is a waivable affirmative defense. Waivable means that if the defendant does not assert the statute of limitations as a defense, they cannot later complain about the delayed prosecution. The right to a speedy trial is closely related to a Defendant’s Right to Due Process of Law.
10-Year Statute of Limitations for Serious Felony Charges
Several crimes have a 10-year statute of limitations or by the victim’s 21st birthday – whichever is later. These crimes are almost all sexual in nature. However, there is no limitation period if the offender is unidentified, and DNA evidence ultimately identifies the person. After identification through DNA or another novel scientific method, the prosecutor has 10 years from the date of the crime or by the victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later.
There is also a 10-year statute of limitations on kidnapping, extortion, assault with intent to murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and first-degree home invasion.
In Michigan, the most severe crimes such as murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to commit murder, first-degree rape, crimes involving explosives and bombs, and terrorism have no statute of limitations.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations – Leaving and then Returning to Michigan
Some situations may toll the running of the statute of limitations period. Tolling extends the time for the government to bring criminal charges after the “technical” date the statutory period expired. If the suspect leaves Michigan, the time period is temporarily stopped until they return.
For example, John Doe was accused of domestic violence on January 1, 2010. There is a 6-year Statute of Limitations for domestic violence. The clock starts running on the date of the offense, January 1, 2020. John leaves Michigan on January 1, 2021, and returns five years later on January 1, 2026. In total, 6 full years have passed; however, only one year passed while John was in Michigan (five passed while he was out of the state). Once John returns on January 1, 2026, the prosecutor still has 5 years to file charges.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Statute of Limitations in Criminal Cases
If a warrant has been outstanding for years, does the statute of limitations expire?
The statute of limitations is inapplicable if a warrant is outstanding. If a court issued a warrant, the charge was “filed,” and the statute of limitations is irrelevant.
If I leave the state, will the statute of limitations expire?
The statute of limitations is tolled while a defendant is out of Michigan. For example, if someone leaves Michigan three years after committing an ordinary felony, the statute of limitations clock stops. If the person returns after 20 years, the prosecutor still has 3 years to bring charges.
Can you get in trouble for something you did years ago?
You can get charged with a crime that occurred years earlier if the statute of limitations has not expired.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys in Michigan
If you, or a loved one, are facing allegations of a criminal act that occurred years ago, the statute of limitations might be a viable defense for you. To succeed with a sophisticated defense, such as the statute of limitations, you need expert legal help to protect you and assert all defenses. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. appear in state and federal courts daily and have decades of experience representing people charged with crimes. We would be happy to answer any questions you have.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.