Virginia Statute of Limitations Criminal Charges: Your Complete Guide

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Virginia?

Many people have heard tales of a perpetrator of a heinous crime going unpunished because the statute of limitations for the offense had passed. Most probably have a vague idea of what that means. It is essential to know precisely what it means for you and your potential case if you are or believe you will be charged with a crime.

A statute of limitations is a time limit set by law within which a victim has to report a crime and a legal action, such as a civil suit or criminal prosecution, must be commenced. If the statute of limitations expires without an action being commenced, the right to bring legal action is lost. With the exception of serious felonies with no statute of limitations, most states have statutes of limitations between five and fifteen years.


Virginia’s Statute of Limitations for Criminal Charges


Certain crimes in Virginia have different statutes of limitations. For example, most misdemeanor cases have a one-year statute of limitations. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

Certain felonies in Virginia, including murder, are not subject to a statute of limitations, so the government is always free to prosecute the suspect.

If you are charged with a crime, and you want to know the statute of limitations applicable to your criminal case, it is important to consult an attorney right away. In some cases, you may face a civil lawsuit and criminal charges.

You may benefit from a consultation with a reputable legal advisor to better understand how the Virginia statute of limitations might apply to your legal situation. A qualified federal criminal lawyer from Scrofano Law could provide a consultation and case assessment.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors

There are specific scenarios where Virginia misdemeanors extend beyond the one-year statute of limitation for filing charges. The following is a sampling of a few common examples, but it is not an exhaustive list:

  • Misdemeanor fraud, petit larceny, and theft: 3-5 years

  • Misdemeanor environmental and wildlife offenses: 3-5 years

  • Misdemeanor misconduct: 2-5 years

  • Misdemeanor building code violations: 2 years

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases involving a child is significantly more complicated.


When Does the Statute of Limitations Start in Virginia?

 Statutes of limitations are usually triggered when the crime occurs, not when a criminal charge is filed. It is for this reason that many crimes go unpunished.

It is possible, however, that the crime was undetected or that the victim was unwilling to report it. Those cases may be subject to an extension of the limitations period under the law.

Criminal Statute of Limitations Is Extensions

An extended statute of limitations can complicate matters a bit. A strict time limit usually limits the ability of the State to press criminal charges. Once the statute of limitations expires, a state can no longer file criminal charges against that person.

However, in order to increase public safety and protect victims from further harassment, many states have extended their statutes of limitations for certain crimes. This can be very beneficial when the victim is too afraid to report the crime or the offense was otherwise obfuscated.

Similarly, a prosecutor has extra time to file charges against a person who evades (avoids) arrest for a crime. The statute of limitations does not run when the defendant is fleeing from justice or concealing themselves. In some cases, this can mean leaving the state or altering their appearance in such a way that they cannot be recognized. 

To determine the statute of limitations for a case in which you are involved, as well as to discover whether any mitigating circumstances exist that may extend those limitations, it is often beneficial to contact a skilled attorney in your area.


How Do the Statutes of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Cases Work?

For instance, in cases where a misdemeanor crime of a sexual nature is committed against a minor, the limitation clock does not start when the crime is committed. Instead, the clock starts once the victim reaches the age of majority (18 years). Misdemeanor sexual offenses include: misdemeanor attempted sexual battery, sexual battery, infected sexual battery (STD or STI), and sexual abuse of a child.

It is a rule of law that once the clock starts to run, the prosecution has one year to file charges. However, if the offender is over three years older than the victim, the prosecution has five years to file charges.

Since the laws governing an illegal act with a minor are necessarily harsh, those charged with aggravated sexual battery need to strongly consider building an excellent attorney-client relationship with a reputable law firm well-versed in the criminal statutes of Virginia.

How Can an Attorney Help You With Virginia Criminal Statute of Limitations?


Even though the statute of limitations for misdemeanors is one year, these vary for felonies. If you have questions or concerns regarding the Virginia statute of limitations for a crime you may be charged with, consider seeking legal help.

There are many benefits of hiring a criminal defense attorney in Virginia. An attorney can help you understand the specifics of the statute of limitations for prosecuting the crime you are charged with.

Additionally, an experienced criminal attorney can assist you with your case’s sentencing, bail, and other legal aspects of your case. They can also help you with appeals and post-conviction motions if needed. Contact Scrofano Law if you would like to speak with a Virginia criminal lawyer for a consultation.


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