If you had the threat of charges being brought against you hanging over you for a long period of time it would be extremely stressful and very difficult to draw a line under the situation and move on with your life.

That is a primary reason why the statute of limitations exists, and the purpose of the act is to set the clock running and ensure that if a prosecution is to be brought against you it will have to be done within a certain timeframe from when the alleged offense was committed.

Here is a look at the main purpose of the statute of limitations, exceptions to the rule, and an overview of the amount of time that can elapse before you can no longer be subjected to prosecution.

The chance to defend yourself properly

One of the first points to make would be the fact that the law surrounding the statute of limitations contains a  number of exceptions and caveats, which means it is not always a straightforward case of waiting for the right amount of time to pass in order to avoid being prosecuted.

However, the general purpose of the statute is to set a general time limit, which is currently five years in the United States, so that a defendant has a fair chance of defending themselves.

It stands to reason that if you are suddenly accused of a felony that dates back a decade or longer it will become harder to obtain evidence and testimonies that allow you the best opportunity of defending yourself.

It is viewed that your right to receive due process will be harmed if charges are raised at a much later date from when the alleged offense occurred and that is the fundamental reason why the statute of limitations exists.

Different time limits, or no limit for certain crimes

Crimes vary in severity and that is why there are exceptions to the statute, and serious charges such as murder do not have any specific time limit, allowing the law to bring someone to account for their crime at any point when a valid case for the prosecution can be made.

Other notable exceptions to the five-year statute of limitations include terrorism charges and child sex offenses.

It is also important to note that a large number of so-called white-collar crimes have their own statute of limitations. For instance, if the IRS believes you have committed tax fraud or failed to file a tax return, it is generally the case that the tax authorities will get six years to prosecute from the date of your alleged offense.

There is a longer statute of limitations applied to offenses relating to bank fraud or financial transactions and that is usually a period of ten years that can pass before it becomes harder for a prosecution to be raised against you.

In summary, it would be a good idea to seek professional legal guidance with regard to the statute of limitations as the time limit varies according to what the charges are and the amount of time that can pass before you are free from prosecution.

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