When the authorities have reason to believe someone has committed a crime, they are not always able to apprehend them immediately. In fact, it is not altogether unheard of for months or even years to pass by before the police can make an arrest. There are certain criminal activities that are punishable indefinitely, but there are others with an expiration date or a statute of limitations. After this length of time has passed, the alleged offender can no longer be charged with a crime.
It could be argued that the main reason a statute of limitations exists is so that people remain protected under the law. For example, if someone were accused of committing a minor theft many years in the past, he or she would find it difficult to put up a good defense. If the alleged item was actually purchased instead of stolen, it is unlikely that the defendant would still have the receipt or the item in question.
In Ohio, both felony crimes and misdemeanor crimes have a statute of limitations. Most felonies have a statute of limitations equaling six years to begin at the time the state knew about the crime. However, major crimes, such as murder, have no statute of limitations, which means that the defendant could be punished years or decades after the alleged crime occurred.
The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is much less. For a minor misdemeanor, the length of time after which a defendant can be punished is only six months. For any other misdemeanor, the statute of limitations increases to two years.
Regardless of whether the charges a defendant faces are felonies or misdemeanors, it is important to seek guidance from a criminal defense attorney as early as possible. Doing so could mean the difference between a conviction and beating the charges altogether.
Source: Ohio.gov, “Statute of limitations for criminal offenses,” accessed Aug. 18, 2015