Statute of Limitations and What It Means for You

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  2. Statute of Limitations and What It Means for You

When you go into a law firm for a legal consultation, it will feel like you’re being asked a million questions. The attorney you meet with will ask you what happened, how it happened, with whom it happened, why it happened, and what you want to do about it. The attorney will also ask you when it happened. This is because of something called the statute of limitations, and it is one of the most important questions you have to answer. 

When someone references the statute of limitations, they are referring to a section of a state’s—or the federal government’s–code of laws that sets out how long the government or another individual has to pursue charges against you based on a particular claim of action. The statute of limitations exists to ensure you get a fair trial. The longer it has been since the act, the more difficult it is for witnesses to recall information and the less available other types of evidence are. 

The statute of limitations also preserves the defendants’ and respondents’ state of mind. It prevents past mistakes from hanging over your head indefinitely. Living in fear of being sued or charged can severely affect your mental state. With the statute of limitations, there comes a point at which you can let go of your own past mistakes and stop living in fear of a sheriff showing up at your door to serve or arrest you. 

Though most people refer to the statute of limitations as though it is a single statute with a single designated length of time, there are many different statutes of limitations in each state’s code. Statutes of limitations exist for both criminal and civil charges and the length of the statute of limitations varies based upon the exact crime or act you are accused of. For example, when it comes to criminal charges, the length varies based on whether you have committed a nonviolent misdemeanor, a violent misdemeanor, or a felony. According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15-1, the statute of limitations for deceit, malicious mischief, petit larceny where the value of the property does not exceed five dollars, and all other non-malicious misdemeanors is two years. That means that charges for those crimes must be brought against you within two years or cannot be brought against you at all. Under that same section of the North Carolina General Statutes, the statute of limitations is ten years for the knowing and wanton failure to report the abuse, neglect, dependency, or death of a child due to maltreatment; sexual battery; indecent liberties between children; child abuse; and knowingly or willfully failing to report violent offenses, sexual offenses, or abuse of a child when they knew or should have known such things were occurring. There is no statute of limitations for felony charges. If you commit a felony, you can be charged with it at any time. Statutes of limitations work similarly for civil matters. The amount of time depends upon the specific charge. 

When considering whether you have a case, the statute of limitations as it pertains to your particular charge or claim of action is one of the first things your attorney will look at. However, many other determinations must be made at the outset, whether you’re looking to initiate a suit or defend against one. 

If you need legal counsel, schedule a consultation with King Law Offices today. King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively, and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day. If you have pending criminal charges, contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.

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