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Michigan Statute of Limitations: How Long Can The Prosecutor Wait to Charge Crimes?

Michigan's statute of limitations are time limits imposed on prosecutors in which they must file charges accusing someone of a crime within a certain amount of time. The idea is to protect defendants because witnesses will forget or die and evidence will go missing as time passes. If a crime is authorized against the accused many years after the fact, that defendant may lose the ability to properly defend himself because favorable evidence has disappeared. For extremely serious crimes such as murder, there are no limitations and charges may be brought at any time.

The statute of limitations for crimes in Michigan as of 2018 are follows:

1. NO LIMIT for murder; conspiracy to commit murder; solicitation of murder; criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, certain crimes regarding chemical, biological or explosive substances if punishable by life in prison; certain crimes regarding forced labor if punishable by life in prison; and certain terrorist acts.

2. 25 YEARS FROM DATE OF OFFENSE for certain human trafficking offenses under the Theresa Flores' Law.

3. 10 YEARS FROM DATE OF OFFENSE OR BY VICTIM's 21st BIRTHDAY, WHICHEVER IS LATER, for female circumcision; crimes involving child pornography; criminal sexual conduct in the second degree; criminal sexual conduct in the third degree; criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree; and assault to commit criminal sexual conduct. (If DNA evidence is found from an unidentified individual, charges may be filed at any time after the offense is committed.  Once the individual is identified, the prosecutor is limited to 10 years or the victim's 21st birthday, whichever is later, from the date of the identification)

4. 10 YEARS FROM DATE OF OFFENSE for kidnapping, extortion, assault with intent to commit murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or first-degree home invasion. (If offense is reported to police within 1 year and the perpetrator is unknown, charges may be filed for that offense within 10 years after the individual is identified per Brandon D'Annunzio's Law)

5. 6 YEARS FROM DATE OF OFFENSE for identity theft (If offense is reported and the perpetrator is unknown, charges may be filed for that offense within 6 years after the individual is identified)

6. 6 YEARS FROM DATE OF OFFENSE for all other crimes.

There are caveats to these rules. Any period during which the individual to be charged did not usually and publicly reside within Michigan is not part of the time limit. This extension is called "tolling" and this additional time that the accused is out of state is added to the statute of limitations of that offense.  This extension only applies if the statute of limitations did not expire at the time the tolling took place.

The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense to any charge that it applies to. However, this defense only applies if the prosecutor didn't file charges in the time limit. If charges are timely filed against you and a warrant is issued, you cannot avoid arrest for the warrant by waiting for the statute of limitations to expire. Once the warrant is issued, it remains valid into perpetuity until you are arrested or the warrant is recalled by the prosecutor or judge. It is important to understand how the statute of limitations are applied before assuming that you are in the clear on past criminal behavior.

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