In every state, there are statutes of limitations that establish the time within which the state has to bring charges against people for committing crimes. If the state fails to file charges within the limitations period, the statute of limitations can serve as a complete defense to the charges. This means that a defendant can secure dismissal of any charges that are filed outside of the statute of limitations for the offense with which he or she is charged. Like other criminal offenses, theft by deception has a statute of limitations that prescribes the time within which the police and prosecutor must bring charges. DiCindio Law can help you to determine whether your charges were filed within the required period.
Understanding the statute of limitations
Statutes of limitations are meant to protect people who are charged with crimes. When too much time has passed from the date when an offense was originally committed, it can be more difficult to build a defense. This is because evidence and witnesses may be lost over time. It is unfair to punish people for alleged behavior that occurred years ago.
In general, statutes of limitations assign longer periods for felonies and shorter periods for misdemeanors. Some crimes, including murder, do not have a statute of limitations. For these types of offenses, the state can charge a defendant with the crime regardless of how long ago it occurred.
When the limitations period begins to run
Typically, the statute of limitations begins to run as soon as the criminal offense is completed. For example, if a crime has a statute of limitations of two years, the prosecutor would have from the time that the crime was committed until two years later to file the charge.
Trying to figure out when the limitations period begins for an offense that continues over days or weeks can be more difficult. However, the general rule is that the clock does not begin to run until the crime has finished. For example, if you set up a GoFundMe account after lying about having cancer and collected funds over a period of weeks, the limitations period would not start to run until the criminal offense ended. In that scenario, the limitations period would begin to run after you secured the last donation based on your deception.
Once the limitations period ends, it generally means that you will not be charged. However, some events toll the limitations period, which gives the prosecution additional time to file charges. For example, if you fled Pennsylvania and were gone for a couple of years before being discovered, the prosecutor may have more time to prosecute you.
The statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania
Statutes of limitations can be difficult to understand. For example, if you are charged with more than one offense, the limitations period could expire for a lesser offense but still allow you to be prosecuted for a major crime. Other timing problems can also be at issue. For example, depending on the circumstances of your case, your right to a speedy trial could be affected.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer at DiCindio Law can help you to understand the statute of limitations and other timing problems that might apply to your case. If it applies, a lawyer can help you to raise a defense based on an expired statute of limitations.
In Pennsylvania, the general statute of limitations for most crimes is two years from the date that they are completed. However, Pennsylvania has a five-year statute of limitations for major crimes. Under 42 Pa. C.S. § 5552(b)(1), theft by deception is listed as a major offense. This means that the statute of limitations that applies is five years instead of two.
Get help from an experienced defense lawyer at DiCindio Law
If you are charged with theft by deception, the penalties that you might face will depend on the value of the property you are alleged to have obtained through deception. Getting experienced legal help to defend against this type of offense is important. Whether you are convicted of theft by deception as a misdemeanor or felony, a theft conviction can cause collateral consequences in your life long after you have completed your sentence and paid any fines. Many employers complete criminal background checks and will not hire people with theft convictions. Having a criminal record can also cause problems with finding housing and obtaining credit, and a conviction could also cause harm to your personal relationships. Contact DiCindio Law today to learn about the statute of limitations and how it might apply in your case. We can be reached by telephone at 610.430.3535 or through our online contact form.