Whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a charge against someone for a criminal offense or not, the statute of limitations imposes a limit on such an action. Provided that the crime occurred reasonably long enough ago, a prosecutor will no longer be able to initiate a felony or misdemeanor charge.
Not all crimes bear the same statute of limitations, as the law aims to achieve the best balance. A general rule of thumb is that the worse the incident, the longer the statute of limitations will be.
This is logical considering that the window to file charges for the worst of felony charges will allow justice to be served, even after a long time has passed.
The information below speaks to the statute of limitations applied to drunk driving incidents. Sexual assaults and other felony and misdemeanor charges are briefly highlighted to illustrate the time differences.
Statute of Limitations in Texas
Every misdemeanor or felony charge will not necessarily have a statute of limitations in Texas. Whenever there is none present, they will fall into a general category. Here is a quick look at some of the specific ones.
Criminal Charges for Sexual Assault, Murder, Etc.
For matters including indecency with a child, fleeing an accident scene where a death occurred, manslaughter, some forms of sexual assault, manslaughter, and murder, there is no time limit. More information is available in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.01(1).
Obviously, for matters as serious as these, leaving an open window for a criminal case to proceed is an understandable course of action.
Arson, Trafficking, Etc.
Under this category, there is compelling prostitution, trafficking, causing deliberate injuries to the elderly or disabled, and arson. The statute of limitations here according to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.01(2) is 10 years.
Money Laundering, Tax Evasion, Etc.
Next, there are matters including bigamy, felony tax evasion, healthcare fraud, child exploitation, or credit card abuse. According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.01(3), the statute of limitations here is seven years.
Robbery, Theft, Etc.
There is a five-year statute of limitations here according to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.01(4). This category includes offenses such as insurance fraud, child endangerment, theft, and robbery.
Statute of Limitations for a Felony or Misdemeanor DWI
As far as DWI charges go, the state of Texas doesn't necessarily have a statute of limitations that applies directly to the offense. Therefore, DWI cases will fall into the general category that was highlighted above.
To find how a DWI arrest will be treated, it's essential to look at Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.02 and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.01(8). The former speaks to misdemeanor charges, which are generally given a two-year statute of limitations. The latter focuses on felony charges, which have a three-year statute of limitations generally.
Even with this information, it's still not enough to tell if someone worried about a potential DWI conviction is out of the woods or not.
That's because DWI charges often can be accompanied by others based on the factors at play For example, intoxication manslaughter, drunk driving with a child passenger, or intoxication assault can change things.
Even the number of prior DWI charges can factor into the equation.
When Does the Time Calculation Begin?
All the information needed here can be found under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 12.01. Put simply, the period of the statute of limitations calculation will begin on the date the offense was committed.
This would be the date at which all of the crime's elements are present. For example, if a police officer arrests someone for drunk driving and there's nothing else to the crime (also assume this is the first offense), then there would be a two-year period from the date of the offense.
If it is a third offense or someone suffered sexual assault at the hands of the arrested driver, then while the start date would be when the assault was committed, the period to file charges will be longer.
Will a Previous DWI on a Criminal Record Stop Mattering in Texas?
Some states have a limited lookback period where DUI charges are concerned. This is beneficial to someone with a criminal record that includes such a charge since it means that a subsequent one may be treated as a first offense if enough time has passed.
In Texas, this is not the case. A DUI charge will permanently be registered, meaning that any subsequent offenses will be treated as such.
What Will Happen if The Period Passes?
The period allowed based on the statute of limitations could potentially pass without any DWI charge being brought against the accused person. Does this mean that there will no longer be a need to worry about a DWI conviction happening?
Well, this depends on the circumstances, as the prosecution could still attempt to file the charge. Once there is nothing out of the ordinary, then a DWI defense lawyer would attempt to have the charge dismissed given the fact that the statute of limitations has passed.
A time-barred charge is possible. Even if this were to occur though, quality DWI attorneys will seek to have this dismissed.
What May Cause DUI Charges to Be Delayed?
Many people are under the impression that so long as the statute of limitations has not passed and the prosecution at least has some evidence in a matter, a DWI charge is on the way. However, this could not be any further from the truth.
It is true that under normal circumstances, the filing happens quite quickly. Nevertheless, there may be reasons why the prosecution delays a charge. Some of these are:
Trouble with evidence in the case such as lost samples or lab errors, which may require some kind of investigation or recovery
Constitutional concerns about the way the arrest was handled may create concerns that the court may dismiss the charge
Test result-based delays that may be based on delays in the submission of samples, issues with the lab, etc. (Learn how long does it take to get DUI urine test results)
Time and resource constraints
Concerns about the suitability of the suspect for a hearing because of mental or physical challenges. For example, the drunk driver may have suffered serious injuries that have necessitated hospitalization
Why Is There a Statute of Limitations in Texas?
The understanding is there that the statute of limitations exists to prevent people from being prosecuted beyond a certain time for some charges. Why is this the case? Truthfully, it has a lot to do with evidence.
As time passes, the quality of evidence will likely go down. This is true on both sides of the fence. Imagine defending against criminal charges when the basic evidence being used may be a deteriorated and obscure version.
Note, however, that there may be special circumstances where the statute of limitations is not absolute. In Texas, the decision can be taken to suspend it, if needed, for example.
Can the "Clock" Be Paused?
As indicated before, the statute of limitations will have a period that begins at the point where the offense is committed. From that point all, the time will run until the threshold is reached, preventing the prosecution from going forward with the charge.
When the circumstances call for it, the tolling of the statute of limitations is possible. In other words, the running period is paused. This is usually for a stipulated amount of time.
For example, this most commonly happens when the defendant in the case is on the run. If such a decision isn't taken, the person could theoretically simply stay in hiding until the period has expired.
What Are Recommended Courses of Action While Awaiting a DWI Charge?
When dealing with a potential blemish to your criminal record in the form of a DWI case, people may find themselves not wanting to do much activity out of fear that it may make things worse.
While keeping a low profile is a good idea, certain things still need to be done. For example, the act of retaining an expert attorney is non-negotiable. After all, this is one of the most reliable ways to discover and argue based on constitutional violations, test result concerns, etc.
What Are Not Recommended Courses of Action While Awaiting a DWI Charge?
On the flip side of the matter, there are courses of action that should not be taken while awaiting a charge for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Obstructing justice is a bad idea. Some people believe that by doing things such as threatening witnesses, they can prevent things from proceeding before the statute of limitations is reached. However, what may happen is that further legal action is taken.
It's also likely that things are working in the defense's favor if the prosecution seems delayed, so there is no reason to attract unnecessary attention.
Also, do not hide anything from the defense lawyer. The idea of an attorney-client relationship is to allow a safe, confidential space.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced DWI Defense Attorney Today!
The statute of limitations can have a huge impact on cases if the prosecution should wait too long to bring charges against the defendant. Even so, it takes an expert defense attorney to attempt to influence outcomes based on the elapsed time since the incident. A lawyer can also help provide answers to questions like how does the military find out about DUI.
If you are facing charges for driving under the influence, consider hiring Sparks Law Firm for a comprehensive approach to your case. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (817) 381-7846.