Waiting for criminal charges in Florida can leave you stressed and second-guessing your decisions. Thankfully, the law restricts the amount of time you have to worry in many cases.
As the Florida Bar News explains, there are at least two time limits on the judicial process: The criminal statute of limitations and the right to a speedy trial.
Statute of limitations
The criminal statute of limitations dictates that liability for certain crimes expires after a set window of time. Note that this does not apply to convictions but to the time a prosecutor may bring charges against you. This time begins tolling the day after the alleged crime and ends at the time the law determines. For example, a second-degree misdemeanor crime has a statute of limitations of one year, so the prosecutor has exactly one year after your alleged crime to bring charges against you.
In Florida, only certain crimes have a statute of limitations. Very serious felonies, such as sexual assault of a minor, murder, or crimes eligible for capital punishment, have no statute of limitations, meaning that a prosecutor may bring charges at any time, with some exceptions. Most other crimes carry a limit of five years or less. Certain crimes, such as crimes of fraud, may begin tolling at the date of discovery rather than the date of the crime.
Right to a speedy trial
In Florida, official criminal procedure requires that after an arrest, prosecutors must bring formal charges within 175 days — even for crimes that are still within the statute of limitations or have no statute of limitations. In other words, if authorities arrest you immediately after committing a crime, and the crime carries a five-year statute of limitations, the prosecutor’s window to charge you becomes 175 days rather than five years.
This procedure does have some exceptions, however, and the rule itself has been subject to dispute. The Florida Supreme Court upheld this rule after such a dispute this year, so it is still in place for the time being. In certain cases, the authorities may be able to find ways to extend this time frame.