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Criminal Defense

What Is the Georgia Statute of Limitations for Criminal Offenses?

By January 10, 2022No Comments

If you are facing charges for a criminal offense in Georgia, then you should know the rules that prosecutors must follow in order to get a conviction. Among the many rules regarding proper arrest, handling of evidence, etc. there is the statute of limitations

A statute of limitations is a time limit in which the prosecution must file charges. The reason that there are statutes of limitations on most crimes is to protect defendants from conviction based on evidence that may have deteriorated over time.

If this time period has elapsed since the crime has occurred, then the prosecution is not allowed to charge you.

At the Frye Law Group, we work to help clients throughout Georgia clear their names from the crimes they have been accused of. If you need a criminal defense attorney, contact us today.

Felony Statutes of Limitations in Georgia

In Georgia, if the penalty for a crime is greater than one year in prison, that crime is classified as a felony. This includes:

  • Murder
  • Armed robbery
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Burglary

There are two major categories of felonies: violent and non-violent. A violent felony is a crime that involves force or threat of force. Examples of non-violent felonies include theft by deception or distribution of narcotics. 

Here are the major statutes of limitations for felonies in Georgia:

  • Forcible rape has a statute of limitations of 15 years.
  • Crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment—such as airplane hijacking or treason—must be filed within 7 years.
  • All other felonies have a statute of limitations of 4 years, unless the victim was a minor, in which case the statute of limitations is 7 years.

Misdemeanor Statute of Limitations in Georgia

In general, the statute of limitations for all misdemeanors committed in Georgia is 2 years, but there can be exceptions. 

As with many felonies, if the victim of the misdemeanor crime was a minor then the statute of limitations is 7 years. 

If the victim was younger than 16 years of age and the crime involved rape, incest, sodomy or child molestation, then the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim becomes 16 years old or the crime is reported, whichever comes first.

Factors that May Stall the Statute of Limitations

In some situations, the statute of limitations may not automatically start following the commission of the crime. The statute of limitations may not run if any of the following are true:

  • The defendant is not a Georgia resident
  • The perpetrator’s identity is unknown
  • The crime has not been identified
  • The perpetrator was a government official who committed theft by conversion of property
  • The perpetrator was a guardian who committed theft by conversion of property of their ward
  • COVID-19 judicial orders extended the statute of limitations

Furthermore, if the victim was 65 years of age or older at the time of the crime, the statute of limitations is 15 years and begins when the crime is reported or discovered.

Prosecutors have an additional 6 months if they have already started a case but paused it.

If DNA evidence confirms the identity of the perpetrator of a crime of armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, or aggravated sexual battery, there is no time limit.

Are there exceptions to Georgia’s statute of limitations rules?

Yes, there are some exceptions — crimes that do not have a statute of limitations. 

The most notable crime is murder. The Georgia justice system considers murder such a heinous crime that it will permit the filing of charges against a defendant no matter how much time has passed. 

You can be prosecuted for murder at any time after the crime occurred, and will need a dedicated and experienced criminal defense attorney like Kim Frye to help you prove your innocence and avoid conviction.

Trust the Frye Law Group to Defend Your Rights

When threatened with jail time, probation or fines, Georgia families have turned to the Frye Law Group, one of the state’s leading criminal defense firms. With decades of legal experience helping wrongly accused defendants clear their name, the lawyers of the Frye Law Group will protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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