Statute of Limitations for Adult Crimes

I am often asked “how long does the State have to bring charges?”.   I wish it was easy to give a straight forward answer however like any rule there are exceptions.  The time period within which the State must bring charges is called the “Statute of Limitations”.  The general rule is:

  • There is no statute of limitation for murder or for incest, unlawful sexual contact, sexual abuse of a minor, rape or gross sexual assault, if the victim had not attained the age of 16 years at the time of the crime.
  • A prosecution for a Class A, B,and C crime must be commenced within 6 years after it is committed.
  • A prosecution for a Class D and E crimes must be commenced within 3  years after it is committed.

The period of limitation does not run:

  • when the accused is absent from the State but the period of limitation cannot be extend by more than 5 years;
  • during any time when a prosecution against the accused for the same crime based on the same conduct is pending in the State; or
  • during any time when a prosecution against the accused for the corresponding juvenile crime based on the same conduct is pending in the Juvenile Court.

When is a crime committed?  A crime is committed when every element of the crime has occurred, or if the crime consists of a continuing court of conduct, at the time when the course of conduct or the defendant’s complicity therein is terminated.

How do you know when a prosecution is commenced?  A prosecution is commenced whenever (1) a criminal complaint is filed with the court, (2) an indictment is returned by the Grand Jury, or (3) if an indictment is waived when the information is filed with the court.

There are other exceptions to the general rule which can be found in the law controlling our Statute of Limitations.  The statute of limitation for adult crimes can be found here.  If a criminal prosecution is not brought within the applicable time period then the case should be dismissed.  I hope this post assist you in understanding “how long the State of Maine has to bring charges”.  If you have questions regarding this information or have charges pending against you call my office today.

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