You might have seen recent news stories explaining how police have solved murders that are decades old.
Ohio police even cracked a cold case murder that happened in 1974! After 45-plus years, you might think someone committed the perfect crime.
However, thanks to persistent investigative work and the development of improved forensic testing, law enforcement officers can provide closure to the victim’s family and charge the alleged killer.
With so much time passed, you might wonder is there a statute of limitations for murder? The answer may surprise you.
The state of Ohio, along with every other state and U.S. territory, has no statute of limitations on murder.
That means anyone can face murder charges at any time during their lives, no matter how much time has passed. The same is not true for other criminal charges, however.
If something bad happened in your past, you might not need to know what is the statute of limitations on murder, but you might want to know if Ohio law bars prosecution for other acts due to the passage of time.
An experienced and knowledgeable Ohio criminal defense lawyer from Gounaris Abboud, LPA, can explain how Ohio’s statutes of limitations can save you from a wrongful conviction.
Contact us right away if you were arrested for a crime or police suspect you committed a crime. We will fight relentlessly to protect your rights and safeguard your freedom.
Statute of Limitations for Crimes in Ohio
Even though there is no statute of limitations for murder, all other crimes in Ohio must be charged within a specific timeframe.
The severity of the crime dictates how long the prosecution has to charge you. If prosecutors miss the deadline to charge you with a crime, then Ohio law bars the case from going forward.
Here are the statutes of limitations for crimes in Ohio:
- Minor misdemeanors: six months.
- Misdemeanors: two years.
- Felonies: six years.
- Major felonies such as manslaughter, kidnapping, money laundering: 20 years.
- Sexual battery and rape: 25 years.
These time limitations also apply to conspiracy, attempts to commit, or complicity in committing a felony, including rape and sexual battery.
Exceptions to the Statutes of Limitations
You should understand that statutes of limitations are not hard-and-fast rules. The prosecuting attorney may argue that certain periods of time do not count toward the statute of limitations.
In Ohio criminal practice, that’s known as “tolling the statute.”
Statutes of limitations toll upon the occurrence of certain events. For example, if a college student gets into a bar fight and commits assault before graduation and then leaves the state after graduation, the time the person is out of state tolls the statute of limitations.
However, the clock begins to run again if that person returns to Ohio.
In other circumstances, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until someone discovers the crime. One example is identity fraud.
Under Ohio law, a person can face charges for up to five years after the victim discovers the crime if the initial statute of limitations expired.
Similarly, an offense involving misconduct by a public servant can proceed for the entire time the person is a public servant and up to two years afterward.
Why Is There No Murder Statute of Limitations?
Murder is the most serious crime a person can commit. The value we place on human life as society demands that we allow investigators to keep searching for clues to solve a murder and bring the accused to trial.
Consequently, law enforcement officers and prosecutors devote enormous resources to solving murder cases.
Sometimes the trail goes cold despite investigators’ best efforts. However, investigators will not simply surrender because they couldn’t solve the case quickly.
As a general rule, we cannot allow people to get away with murder. That’s why there is no murder statute of limitations.
If police can develop enough evidence to charge a person for murder, then that person should face trial for the crime, no matter how much time has passed.
Our society will degrade rapidly if we decide that there should be a murder statute of limitations in Ohio, or anywhere else.
Deterrence is another reason why we should not enact a murder statute of limitations. People might be more inclined to plan and commit murder if they knew they would never face charges.
Life in prison without parole or the death penalty for murder conviction deters some people from committing murder.
Finally, the ends of justice require that the door must always remain open to investigating and charging murder cases.
Wrongfully convicting someone of the crime does not suffice. We must ensure that the right person was convicted. Therefore, the passage of time should not protect the guilty or prohibit the innocent from fighting for freedom.
Award-Winning Ohio Criminal Defense Attorneys
At Gounaris Abboud, LPA, we stake our reputation on every case we take. Once again, in 2021, we have landed in the Top 100 Ohio Super Lawyers and the Top 50 in the Cincinnati Super Lawyers list.
While accolades from our peers are nice, we thrive on achieving the best results possible for our clients.
Whether your charge is a run-of-the-mill DUI or a complicated murder, we have the experience and skill to help you get the best result possible.
We use all our resources to defend your case. Whether it is fighting the case at trial or negotiating a favorable plea, the criminal defense lawyers from Gounaris Abboud, LPA will work with you to get the best result possible.
Contact us today online or by calling 937-222-1515 to learn more about our services and commitment to excellence.