As residents of Colorado, it’s essential to understand the legal system, especially when it comes to the state’s criminal statute of limitations. Colorado’s statute of limitations is a crucial aspect of our criminal justice system, as it determines the timeframe in which charges can be filed against a person for a particular offense. As you might imagine, this knowledge can be invaluable when dealing with legal matters.
In this blog post, our Denver criminal defense attorneys at WeedenLaw delve into Colorado’s criminal statute of limitations for a variety of different crimes in Colorado, from petty offenses to even the most serious crimes one can commit under the law.
How Does the Statute of Limitations Work?
The statute of limitations is a legal principle that sets a time limit for criminal charges and when they must be filed against a defendant after the commission of a criminal act. The primary purpose of the statute of limitations is to protect individuals from facing the uncertainty of criminal prosecution hanging over their heads indefinitely. It encourages the prompt investigation and prosecution of criminal cases while ensuring that evidence remains fresh and witnesses remain available.
Each state possesses its own criminal statutes. Below, we’ll specifically highlight the Colorado criminal statute of limitations for a variety of different crimes.
How Long After a Crime Can You Be Charged?
In Colorado, the length of time during which the state can file criminal charges simply depends on the severity of the offense. Generally, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date the crime is committed. However, there are exceptions and nuances to consider, which we will explore in detail later on.
What Crimes Have a Statute of Limitations in Colorado?
Understanding Colorado’s criminal statute of limitations is extremely important for anyone navigating the state’s criminal justice system. As we mentioned above, the length of time during which charges can be filed varies depending on the severity of the offense, and some serious crimes have no statute of limitations at all.
If you find yourself facing criminal charges, it’s crucial to your case that you seek legal representation from an experienced attorney like Jeff Weeden. As a seasoned Denver criminal defense lawyer, he can guide you through the complexities of the legal process and work tirelessly to protect your rights. With the right legal counsel on your side, you can build a strong defense and pursue the best possible outcome for your criminal case.
Colorado law classifies crimes into three main categories: petty offenses, misdemeanors, and felonies. Each of the crimes that fall into any of these three categories has its own statute of limitations.
Colorado Petty Offenses Statute of Limitations
Petty offenses, which are considered minor violations of the law, typically have a shorter statute of limitations than their misdemeanor and felony counterparts. The Colorado statute of limitations for criminal offenses relating to petty crimes is generally 6 months. This means that charges for petty offenses, such as petty offenses not involving theft and other civil infractions, must be filed within six months from the date the offense occurred. However, for petty offenses that do involve theft, the clock starts 6 months after the offense is discovered.
Colorado Misdemeanor Statute of Limitations
Misdemeanors in Colorado are more serious than petty offenses but less severe than felonies. Colorado has a statute of limitations of 18 months for most misdemeanor crimes. This means that charges for misdemeanors must be filed within 18 months of the commission of the offense or, for misdemeanor theft crimes, after the offense is discovered. However, there are some exceptions:
- Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses – 1 year
- Misdemeanor Unlawful Sexual Contact (victim is 15 years old or above) – 5 years
- Misdemeanor Unlawful Sexual Contact (victim is under the age of 15) – 8.5 years
Colorado Felony Statute of Limitations
Felony offenses are the most serious criminal offenses under Colorado criminal law. As such, these crimes typically carry much more significant penalties. The criminal statute of limitations for most felony crimes in Colorado, including manslaughter, felony theft crimes, and insurance fraud, is three years. However, there are a few exceptions to this depending on the type of crime committed:
- Vehicular Homicide – 5 years
- Fatal Hit-and-Run – 5 years
- Colorado Commodity Code Violations – 5 years
- Felony Bribery, Tax Evasion, and Certain Other White-Collar Crimes – 6 years
- Antitrust Act Violations (i.e., monopolization, bid-rigging) – 6 years
What Crimes Do NOT Have a Statute of Limitations in Colorado?
Certain serious crimes in Colorado do not have a statute of limitations. This means that charges can be filed at any time, regardless of how much time has passed since the commission or discovery of the offense. For example, the commission (as well as the attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit) any of the following crimes does not warrant a statute of limitations:
- Any sex offense against a child (including but not limited to child molestation, sexual assault on a child, sexual exploitation of a child, human sex trafficking, child prostitution, indecent exposure, and more)
- Felony sexual assault (if there is DNA evidence and the crime was reported to a law enforcement agency within 10 years of the incident taking place)
When Does the Statute of Limitations Start?
The Colorado statute of limitations clock typically starts ticking on the date the crime is committed or discovered. However, there are exceptions to consider. For some crimes, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” or temporarily halted under certain circumstances. This includes:
- If the defendant is out of state or has concealed their identity to avoid prosecution, the statute of limitations may be paused until they can be located or identified.
- For certain crimes involving minors, the statute of limitations may not begin until the victim reaches the age of 18 or until the offense is reported to law enforcement.
- In cases of ongoing criminal activity or crimes with delayed discovery, the statute of limitations may start when the crime is discovered or when it reasonably should have been discovered.
How Long Does a Prosecutor Have to File Charges?
While the statute of limitations sets the maximum time within which charges can be filed, prosecutors have the discretion to file charges at any time within that period. In some cases, prosecutors may delay filing charges due to ongoing investigations, the availability of evidence, or other factors.
It’s important to note that once charges are filed, they can proceed even if the statute of limitations has expired, as long as the charges were filed within the allowable time frame.
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending?
Once charges are filed for a felony offense, the case can remain pending in the criminal justice system for an extended period. The length of time a felony charge can be pending varies depending on various factors, including the complexity of the case, court scheduling, and legal proceedings.
It’s essential to have an experienced criminal defense attorney like Jeff Weeden on your side to navigate the legal process and protect your rights throughout the entire duration of your case.
Charged With a Crime in Colorado? You Need Jeff Weeden, Top Denver Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Colorado, it’s critical that you seek experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Jeff Weeden, a leading Denver criminal defense attorney at WeedenLaw, has extensive experience defending clients facing a wide range of criminal charges. With a deep understanding of Colorado’s criminal justice system, Jeff Weeden is dedicated to providing aggressive and effective legal representation to protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome for your Colorado criminal case.
Jeff Weeden’s knowledge, skill, and legal resources extend to all aspects of criminal defense, including navigating the statute of limitations, building a strong defense strategy, and advocating for clients in court. Don’t leave your future to chance – contact Jeff Weeden today for a free consultation and start building your defense ASAP.