What Are Arizona’s Criminal Statutes Of Limitations?
A statute of limitations, in a criminal offense context, is the amount of time that the prosecution has to bring charges against the accused. Statutes of limitations can vary from state to state, and the statute of limitations could be longer if the crime is also considered a federal offense. Laws can change and retroactively extend a statute of limitations that has already expired. Additionally, the civil statutes of limitations for the financial damages surrounding the offense could differ from the criminal statutes of limitations. Read on to learn more about the statutes of limitations surrounding criminal offenses in Arizona. If you’re facing misdemeanor or felony charges in Arizona, call our firm for your free phone consultation at 480-448-9800.
Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-107
Arizona’s statutes of limitations, or time limitations, are defined by A.R.S. § 13-107. If a prosecution is initiated against a defendant but dismissed, the state has 6 months to reinitiate the case or it will be considered expired.
No Time Limit
Some offenses are so serious that the state doesn’t prescribe a statute of limitations to them. Homicide and conspiracy to commit homicide are both offenses without statutes of limitations in Arizona. Sexual offenses listed in Chapter 14 of the Arizona criminal code that is considered class 2 felonies also have no time limit. The same can be said for violations of Chapter 35.1, which covers sexual exploitation of children. Violent sexual assault as defined by A.R.S. § 13-1423 has no statute of limitations. Neither do violations of A.R.S. § 13-2308.1 (terrorism), A.R.S. § 13-2308.3 (unlawful use of an infectious biological substance or radiological agent), or A.R.S. § 13-3212 (child sex trafficking). The prosecution is also not bound by statutes of limitations for misuse of public monies or a felony involving falsification or attempt to commit falsification of public records.
Most Arizona felonies -classes 2 through 6- have a seven-year statute of limitations. Class 6 felonies are the least serious, while class 2 felonies are the most serious besides capital offenses.
Misdemeanor offenses have a one-year statute of limitations in Arizona.
Petty offenses have a six-month statute of limitations in Arizona.
There are exceptions to A.R.S. § 13-107 that prosecutors can utilize to keep charges from being dismissed in court. Under this phrasing, a statute of limitations has not begun “running” if an exception applies. A statute of limitations doesn’t run when the accused flees the state or hides from investigation within the state. The statute of limitations doesn’t run for serious offenses when the perpetrator’s identity is unknown. Serious offenses are defined by A.R.S. § 13-706. Section 706 categorizes them into serious offenses and violent or aggravated felonies. Serious offenses include first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault resulting in serious injury or using a deadly weapon, sexual assault, dangerous crimes against children, home arson, armed robbery, first-degree burglary, kidnapping, sexual conduct with a minor under 15 years old, and child sex trafficking. Violent and aggravated felonies include first- and second-degree murder, aggravated assault resulting in serious injury or using a deadly weapon, dangerous or deadly assault by a prisoner, committing assault with the intent to riot or participate in a riot, drive-by shooting, discharging a firearm at an occupied residential structure, kidnapping, sexual conduct with a minor that is a class 2 felony, sexual assault, child molestation, continuous sexual abuse of a child, violent sexual assault, first-degree burglary in an occupied residential structure, arson of an occupied structure, arson of an occupied jail or prison facility, armed robbery, participating in a street gang, terrorism, taking a child for prostitution, child sex trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation of minor, sexual exploitation of a minor, and unlawful introduction of a disease or parasite.
Other Defenses Against Serious Offenses
If you’ve been charged with a serious crime, succeeding in a statute of limitations defense may be unlikely. It could be one challenge you present to the prosecution’s charges against you, but you will probably need more to avoid prison time.
Challenge The Admissibility of Evidence
Older cases mean older evidence exhibits, which could be more susceptible to validity challenges in court. Evidence samples from older offenses may have been tested using technology that is now considered antiquated. If the form of testing previously used on the sample is now considered unreliable, the defendant should request retesting or testing by an independent laboratory. Eyewitness evidence from a crime that is years old is also known to be unreliable.
Fourth Amendment Violations
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects against unreasonable government searches and seizures. In general, the police must have reasonable suspicion to stop and investigate a suspect for a crime, and probable cause to place that suspect under arrest. If the police violated your constitutional rights while investigating you or arresting you for a crime, much of the evidence they obtained to use against you will likely be inadmissible in court, weakening the prosecution’s case against you.
Convincing the prosecution that they don’t have a strong enough case to pursue it at its current level may be a key part of your defense lawyer’s strategy. If your felony offense is reduced to a misdemeanor, this could also reduce the statute of limitations. Even if it doesn’t get your case dismissed through the statute of limitations, the mandatory penalty ranges decrease greatly for less serious charges.
Sometimes in the case of prosecution of older crimes, the wrong defendant can be charged. Without DNA evidence attaching the defendant to the crime, it can be difficult to disprove an alibi from years past. Witnesses’ memories can fade and other evidence can be lost or damaged. Don’t assume that you will be declared not guilty at trial just because it is the truth- hire a defense attorney who cares about your case.
Consider a Private Defender If You’re Facing Serious Time
A criminal defense attorney in Arizona is entitled to their choice of legal counsel, whether that be a public defender or an attorney they hire on their behalf. If your charges evade Arizona’s statute of limitations, there is a strong possibility you are up against significant time behind bars. It could take any combination of the defenses described above, as well as negotiation, plea bargaining, and other legal strategies to eliminate or mitigate the negative impact these charges can have on your life. There are plenty of public defenders who are intelligent and passionate about their cases, but you won’t get to browse through a catalog and read their reviews when the court makes an assignment. With all that’s on the line, you may want to at least see what other options are available in your choice of legal counsel.
At My AZ Lawyers, our experienced Arizona criminal defense attorneys are assertive and experienced when it comes to defending against criminal prosecution, even in the case of highly serious charges. Hiring a quality defense attorney could save you from an avalanche of life-altering repercussions that could come from a criminal conviction, or even an investigation or trial going on for too long. For your free phone consultation with a member of our defense team, contact us through our online form or call our office at 480-448-9800.
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