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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

Tolling Statute of Limitations | Texas Laws and What They Mean

Plaintiffs and prosecutors can only take legal action against the at-fault party or alleged offender within a specific period. It's known as the "statute of limitations."

Under Texas law, civil or criminal cases cannot be brought to legal proceedings once this time limit ends. However, a "tolling" of the statute of limitations may take place under certain circumstances, meaning it can be legally paused or suspended.

If this occurs, and there's a chance of conviction, alleged offenders cannot seal or clean up their criminal history, which can impact their personal, professional, and financial lives.

A person facing a civil lawsuit can also cite the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense to get the case dismissed and prevent it from going to the trial court.

This article delves into the scenarios where the statute of limitations is tolled and how these limits can affect both civil and criminal cases.

The Statute of Limitations in a Texas Civil Case

The Statute of Limitations in a Texas Civil Case

According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the statute of limitations for a civil case, such as a personal injury claim, is anywhere from one to five years. This time limit can vary based on several factors.

Texas law sets a one-year limitations period for some cases, including those involving:

  • Lawsuits for libel, slander, malicious prosecution, or breach of promise of marriage

  • Claims filed by people who want to set aside a sale of property that is seized under Subchapter E of the Texas Tax Code's Chapter 33

When an injured person plans to sue the at-fault party to recover compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and other expenses or losses, they often have two years from the time the injury occurs to file a legal claim.

The same is true for those who want to recover compensation for the loss of a loved one through a wrongful death lawsuit.

If the plaintiff initiates legal action after the two-year limitations period, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the civil case and avoid going to trial.

Other Civil Statutes of Limitations in Texas

Below are the statutes of limitations for other Texas civil cases:

  • Damage to personal property: Two years

  • Professional malpractice: Two years from the date the incident occurs (up to 10 years in some cases)

  • Trespass: Two years

  • Fraud: Four years

  • Collection of rents: Four years

  • Collection of debt on account: Four years

  • Breach of contracts: Four years

  • Breach of fiduciary duty: Four years

  • Judgments: 10 years

Exceptions That Toll the Civil Statute of Limitations in Texas

The Civil Practice and Remedies Code recognizes some exceptions that may toll the statute of limitations in Texas, including the following:

  • Discovery rule: The statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff discovers or should have reasonably discovered the injury.

  • Legal disability: If the plaintiff is under 18 years old or of an unsound mind, the applicable statute of limitations may be tolled until they reach the age of majority or regain the mental capacity to file a claim.

  • Fraudulent concealment: If the defendant fraudulently conceals the actions that injured others and their responsibility for the harm, the statute of limitations may be tolled until liability is discovered.

  • Out-of-state defendant: If the person who caused the injuries is outside of Texas, their absence isn't counted toward the time limit, which extends the statute of limitations.

The Statute of Limitations in a Texas Criminal Case

Criminal charges are also subject to a statute of limitations, but this period varies according to different factors, such as the severity of the offense or the age of the victim. For more information, a Fort Worth criminal law firm may be able to help.

Below is a summarized list of the statutes of limitations for Texas criminal cases:

  • Two years: Class A, B, and C misdemeanors

  • Three years: Misdemeanor domestic violence and felonies not listed in the Art. 12.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure

  • Five years: Theft or robbery, criminal domestic violence, elder abuse, kidnapping or burglary, insurance fraud, and abandoning or endangering a child

  • Seven years: Most financial crimes, such as money laundering and credit card or debit abuse, identity theft, possession or promotion of child pornography, and bigamy

  • 10 years: Arson, forgery, human trafficking, injury to an elderly or disabled person, compelling prostitution, and lesser sexual assault charges

  • No limitation: Murder, sex crimes involving children, manslaughter, child trafficking, nonconsensual sexual assault with penetration, and compelling prostitution of a child

When Does the Criminal Statute of Limitations Start Running?

The statute of limitations for criminal cases usually starts running when the alleged crime is committed. However, this may vary under certain circumstances. These are some examples:

  • If the victim is a minor, the statute of limitations starts running from the date they turn 18 years old. This period extends to 10 years from their birthday when the case involves injuries to children, bigamy, or child endangerment.

  • For aggravated burglary and kidnapping with intent to commit the crime, the statute of limitations extends to 20 years from the date the victim turns 18 if they were younger than 17 years old when the offense occurred.

  • This period extends to 20 years from a minor victim's 18th birthday for charges of sexual performance by a child or human trafficking of a child or disabled person.

  • Although the statute of limitations for claims arising from lying about an egg or sperm donor's identity is two years, this period will start running at the time the offense is discovered.

When Can the Criminal Statute of Limitations Be Tolled?

Certain events may toll the statute of limitations for a criminal case in Texas. Below are the main ways to extend this limit:

  • Legal action: This time limit pauses when the prosecutor files charges against the alleged offender and begins counting down again if the case is dismissed.

  • Time outside of Texas: If the defendant is outside of Texas, the statute of limitations stops running until they return to the state.

  • Indictment: This limit may be tolled for a period during which the alleged offender is under indictment for the same conduct, act, or transaction.

Final Thoughts: Should Defendants Hire a Lawyer?

Final Thoughts: Should Defendants Hire a Lawyer?

Since the statute of limitations can greatly impact a civil or criminal case, defendants should contact a defense attorney as soon as possible to understand their rights and how these laws work.

An experienced lawyer is equipped with the knowledge necessary to determine if charges were filed within the time limits and whether alleged offenders can prevent the case from going to trial. They can also advise on a sexual harassment statute of limitations Texas.

Contact Sparks Law Firm Today!

Personal injury lawyers and prosecutors won't show mercy to defendants and will do everything possible to help their clients win. However, a person who is facing civil action or criminal allegations has the right to seek legal representation from a seasoned defense attorney.

At Sparks Law Firm, there's a compassionate team with over 100 years of combined experience. Each attorney will fight for alleged offenders' rights and go the extra mile to achieve a favorable outcome.


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