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How long can prosecutors wait to file charges?

When a person is suspected of a crime in Tennessee, the prosecution has a specific amount of time to bring charges against that person. This is known as the criminal statute of limitations. If charges aren't brought within the statute of limitations, the person won't be able to be charged.

Why are these limits important?

These time limits are important because evidence and memories about the facts of the crime often deteriorate over time. If too much time has elapsed, the evidence might not be preserved or the witness accounts might change.

How long does the prosecution have to file charges for misdemeanors?

Misdemeanor charges have the shortest statute of limitations. Gaming charges must be brought within 6 months and other misdemeanors must be brought within 12 months.

What about felony charges?

Felony charges have a statute of limitations of at least 2 years, but many felonies have a much longer time limit. The amount of time depends largely on the class of the felony, with Class E felonies having the shortest time limit and Class A having the longest statute of limitation, which is 15 years. The exception to this is if the crime that occurred is punishable by life in prison or death. In that case, there is no statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations is one important factor in a criminal case. If the time to pursue charges had elapsed before charges were filed, there is a chance that a petition to have the charges dropped would be successful. It is critical to understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case.

Source: FindLaw, "Tennessee Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws," accessed Feb. 05, 2016

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