Learning About the Statute of Limitations
You are afforded several defendants’ rights if you are facing a criminal charge in Las Vegas. These rights include representation, a fair and speedy trial, and protection from double jeopardy, among other things. Majority of these rights, however, only take effect when the defendant is already in custody or when legal proceedings are underway.
When you are suspected of committing a crime, there is a period allotted by law when someone can press charges against you. This period is one of your main rights as a possible defendant before law enforcement takes you in. Let us learn more about the statute of limitations.
What’s a Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations refers to the period of time when a plaintiff can file charges against another party related to a crime. In other words, it is only during this time limit that charges can be brought before the court against the offending party. If the plaintiff fails to file their case within the allotted time, the court has the right to throw it out, depending on other circumstances related to the case.
A crime’s statute of limitations depends on its severity; the more severe the crime, the longer is the period allowed for wronged parties to file the case. For example, a DUI charge in Las Vegas is only valid for one year for first offenses or misdemeanors, but can be outstanding for up to three years for felony DUI cases. Take note that really severe charges, like murder or statutory rape, have no such statutes; charges can be filed indefinitely into the future so long as compelling evidence is available.
Why Is It Important for Defendants?
As stated earlier, defendants are afforded the right to a fair and speedy trial. The statute of limitations supports that right by ensuring that a person does not need to worry about a sudden criminal complaint long after the period has expired. It requires the plaintiff to take prompt and swift action to file the case so that a prompt verdict can be made.
In addition, the statutes ensure that a defendant is not legally vulnerable when a case is filed against them. Evidence may be lost or destroyed in the period between the alleged criminal act and the charges coming up, putting the defendant in an unfair spot. The statute of limitations is set in place to ensure that both parties must gather evidence in a timely manner to avoid them going ‘stale’ and unusable in a court hearing.
Other Notes for Statutes of Limitations
It is wise to remember that crimes committed in secret (usually sexual abuse and child trafficking cases) do not trigger the statute of limitations until they are discovered. For example, the statute of limitations only come into effect when a person who has been sexually abused since their childhood comes out and files their case in adulthood. The limits for such cases are listed in Nevada’s revised statutes.
Remember that the courts have the right to allow for a trial to go ahead even after the statutes have expired, but only under special circumstances. Additionally, other states have a ‘stop-the-clock’ rule where the statutes are put on hold if the defendant is out-of-state or in hiding. On the flipside, the defendant can file for a motion to dismiss a charge filed post-expiration as long as they have legal grounds to do so.
Defendants will always have their own rights even if they are on the other side of the justice system. Remember that the statute of limitations is only of these many rights that protect you against an unfair trial. Talk to your criminal defense attorney to learn more about what rights are afforded you as a defendant in a criminal case.