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Colorado’s Criminal Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations are laws that determine how soon a lawsuit must be brought in order to preserve a legal claim for injuries or damages resulting from a person’s actions. In the context of criminal law, statutes of limitations determine when charges must be filed against a defendant in order to preserve the state’s ability to prosecute the defendant for that crime. If charges are not filed within the statute of limitations period, the defendant cannot be prosecuted for the alleged crime and will no longer be at risk for potential criminal punishment.

In particular, Colorado’s criminal statute of limitations is codified at C.R.S. § 16-5-401, which provides:

(1) (a) Except as otherwise provided by statute applicable to specific offenses, delinquent acts, or circumstances, no adult person or juvenile shall be prosecuted . . . unless the indictment . . . is filed in a court of competent jurisdiction or a summons and complaint or penalty assessment notice is served upon the defendant or juvenile within the period of time after the commission of the offense or delinquent act as specified below:

-Murder, kidnapping, treason, any sex offense against a child, and any forgery regardless of the penalty provided: No limit

-Attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit murder; attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit kidnapping; attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit treason; attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any sex offense against a child; and attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any forgery regardless of the penalty provided: No limit

-Vehicular homicide, except as described in paragraph (a.5) of this subsection (1); leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in the death of a person: Five years

-Other felonies: Three years

-Misdemeanors: Eighteen months

-Class 1 and 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses: One year

-Petty offenses: Six months

Additionally, these criminal statutes of limitations are tolled where the offender is absent from the state of Colorado. Under those circumstances, the time period is tolled for the duration the offender is absent, up to 5 years. C.R.S. § 16-5-401(2).

Lastly, for some specific crimes, Colorado’s criminal statute of limitations provides that the time period will start to run from the date of discovery of the offense, as opposed to the date the offense was committed. Examples of crimes where this exception applies include:

-Theft, pursuant to section 18-4-401, C.R.S.;

-Criminal impersonation, pursuant to section 18-5-113, C.R.S.;

-Offering a false instrument for recording, pursuant to section 18-5-114, C.R.S.;

-Offenses relating to perjury, pursuant to part 5 of article 8 of title 18, C.R.S.;

-Unlawful acts or omissions relating to financial institutions, pursuant to section 11-107-108, C.R.S.;

C.R.S. § 16-5-401(4.5).

© 2016 J.D. Porter, LLC; Jordan Porter. Denver, Colorado.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended to be general information only and not legal advice. Laws change frequently and the information on this website may not be up to date, nor is the information intended to be fully comprehensive. For legal advice specific to your case please contact J.D. Porter, LLC or another licensed attorney.