Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Criminal Statute of Limitation Bars Some, But Not All Old Prosecutions in Maine

Maine's Criminal Statute of Limitations is codified at 17-A MRSA section 8. It provides that, normally, prosecutions for felonies must be commenced within six years and prosecution for misdemeanors must be commenced within three years of the offense.

The statute is limitations clock is stopped under certain circumstances. The statute does not run during any time when the defendant is absent from the state of Maine and this can extend the statute of limitations by a maximum of five years. The time also does not run once a prosecution against the defendant for the same crime based on the same conduct is pending in Maine, even if the defendant is not brought before the court until after the time limit has run.

Most importantly, there are two situations in which the statue limitations is never a bar prosecution. That is in the case of murder or most sexual offenses against a victim who is less than 16 years old. These cases can be brought anytime. Sex cases in particular are often prosecuted many years or even decades after the alleged criminal conduct.

Cases brought years after the date of the alleged violation, are very problematic. Witnesses are lost, die, or forget what happened. Defendant's themselves often forget the exact circumstances surrounding the allegations. This makes a very stressful situation more stressful, but it also creates opportunities for defense. It is extremely important to speak with an experienced attorney immediately upon learning that charges are being investigated.