Statute of Limitations

April 18th, 2022

Statute of Limitations

Clients routinely ask how long the State has to institute Prosecution against them. For example, I commonly field the prescription question in drug cases where a client is charged with distribution, often to an undercover officer or a confidential informant, from an alleged sale of drugs a year or more before the arrest. Another scenario is an alleged sex offense that happened 20 years or more before the accusation. The one thing clients want is finality. 

Facing legal charges from long ago puts my clients at a disadvantage because it is difficult to recreate the exact defense from random dates long forgotten. The logic behind set time frames within which the State must institute prosecution is to give an individual some finality because, as time marches on, potential evidence can be compromised. When individuals are not aware they are under investigation, they could lose or destroy evidence that would work in their defense. Society, as a whole, does not want to see that happen. That is the basis of the statute of limitations. 

At the pandemic’s start, courts issued emergency orders temporarily suspending several prescriptive periods. This suspension was a serious infraction to individual rights, especially for incarcerated individuals. As a result of this suspension, the legal system often required an individual to remain jailed pending the outcome of a proceeding.  

General Prescriptive periods in Louisiana:

As a general rule, Louisiana’s prescriptive period is six years for a felony punishable at hard labor. There is a four-year prescriptive period for a felony that does not require a hard labor sentence. There is a two-year prescriptive period for misdemeanors punishable by a fine, court cost, or both, and a six-month prescriptive period for misdemeanors that are only punishable by a fine.

No limitation on the institution of Prosecution: 

Murder, or a crime punishable by death or life in prison, has no time limitation to institute Prosecution.

Forcible rape has no time limit for instituting Prosecution.

Second-degree rape has no time limit for instituting Prosecution.

Certain sex offenses have a 30-year prescriptive period:

  • Attempted first-degree rape;
  • Attempted second-degree rape;
  • Sexual degree sexual battery;
  • Oral sexual battery;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Trafficking of children for sexual purposes;
  • Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile;
  • Indecent behavior with juveniles;
  • Pornography involving juveniles;
  • Molestation of a juvenile or person with a physical or mental disability;
  • Prostitution of persons under 18;
  • Enticing persons into prostitution;
  • Crimes against nature;
  • Aggravated crimes against nature;
  • Crimes against nature by solicitation;

Crimes involving a victim under 17 years of age.

It’s worth noting these 30 years begin to run when the victim attains the age of 18.

If you have questions about whether prosecution was timely instituted, do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Larrion L. Hillman, Criminal Defense Attorney in Shreveport and Bossier City at 318-549-9180.

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