Timing Issues in Texas Criminal Law Cases

Ordinarily, when a robbery, theft, assault or any other type of crime is committed in Houston and throughout Texas, law enforcement conducts an investigation and a suspect is apprehended pretty quickly. However, in some cases, the case becomes “cold.” That is, they were unable to identify a suspect in the case for a period of time. We have seen recently in the Duggar case in Arkansas that charges of sexual molestation could not be brought against the offender because they occurred more than three years ago. The Arkansas situation would not exist in Texas, as you can see from the chart below.

In cases where no offender is found or when the information is not known, the issue of timing and what is known as the “statute of limitations” comes into play. That is, in Texas criminal law, charges must be brought within a specific period of time for most offenses. In general, those times are as follows:

  • Arson, 10 years
  • Assault, 2 or 3 years
  • Burglary, 5 years
  • Disorderly Conduct, 2 years
  • Kidnapping, 5 years
  • Manslaughter, No time limit
  • Murder, No time limit
  • Rape and Sexual Assault, No time limit
  • Receiving Stolen Property, 5 years
  • Robbery, 5 years
  • Theft, 5 years

Please note that there are many other offenses that offer differing statutes of limitations, but this is a sampling. Should you be facing a different charge, it is always best to contact an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney to determine what fits your particular situation. .

Even in cases where the statute of limitations has not run on a criminal charge, there are still situations where a court can find that the prosecution waited too long to file its case. Legally, the defense is known as “laches.” For instance, imagine that law enforcement has been investigating a string of burglaries in Houston and has a suspect in mind, but has not brought charges against that suspect. In that time, the suspect’s alibi witness died or somehow became unable to testify in court, the court may find that the police simply waited too long. Additionally, the court could find that because the prosecution waited so long that the evidence became “stale” and unreliable or that it was so deteriorated that defense attorneys like Mr. Pham could not conduct their independent analysis.

In either case, whether the case is barred by the statute of limitations or whether the doctrine of laches applies, a court will find that the prosecution is unable to proceed. Therefore, the accused would be entitled to a dismissal of all charges.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges of any kind, and you want an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, contact Houston attorney Michael H. Pham at (713) 236-7791.

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