Statutes of Limitations

Florida’s statutes have limitations on the time within which a prosecutor must file and pursue a criminal prosecution. Statutes of limitations place time limits, in terms of years, on the filing of charges. Statutes of limitations do not apply to certain more serious crimes, and can be waived if the crime was obscured by acts of the perpetrator. Statues of limitations do not “repose” or end the possibility of a prosecution. The statute of limitations would also be tolled, or can be set aside by a Florida criminal court, if the facts or evidence of the crime, could not have been found or uncovered due to efforts by the accused to hide or obscure the evidence or relevant facts.

When exploring a State of Limitations defense you also have to look into any changes in the law. Every year the Florida legislature enacts new laws and modifies or changes existing laws. One cannot be prosecuted for past acts under laws that did not exist at the time of the event. Likewise, if a change in the law has the result of affecting a constitutional right, it cannot be applied to past acts. The Due Process clause is the most common defense to changes in the law, which affects prosecutions.

There is also the reality of the political aspect of prosecutions. Although the laws of Florida apply in all parts of Florida, the decision to charge is solely that of the local elected prosecutor and in Florida, prosecutors are called “State Attorneys.” Each political district elects its own State Attorney. So far example, the elected State Attorney in Miami can decide not to bring charges based on identical facts, which occurred in another jurisdiction, such as Fort Lauderdale. The politics of prosecution and the policy considerations of elected prosecutors vary. In Miami, where there is a large population of persons born outside of the U.S.A. there is a political and prosecutorial climate quite different from State Attorneys in Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) and different again in Palm Beach County.

Life Felonies

In Florida homicides, capital and life felonies have no statute of limitations. A life felony is a criminal charge for which the punishment is set by Florida’s statute as punishable by thirty years to life in prison. There are several crimes in Florida that are life felonies.

Examples include:

  • Robbery with a firearm
  • Kidnapping
  • Drug trafficking involving significant quantities of controlled substances (the laws vary by the narcotic type and the Schedule classification) and
  • Drug charges in which a gun is used
Sex Crimes Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of limitations are the same in all parts of Florida, regardless of the origin of the act, in any jurisdiction within the State (sex crimes in Miami have the same consequences as sex crimes committed in Fort Lauderdale or any of city). Sexual offenses are put into categories and vary in prison term length and criminal liability based upon the age of the victim and the age of the perpetrator. Florida criminal laws also have greater penalties in which the accusation of a sexual battery involves a person in a position of trust. So, parents, teachers, social workers, religious leaders, and anyone in a custodial or loco parentis position are also punished with longer prison terms.

Other Statute of Limitations

Charges involving abuse or neglect of seniors, disabled persons and disabled adults have a five-year statute of limitations. In Florida, a three-year statute of limitation can prevent prosecutors from arresting and charging crimes that regulate conduct involving environmental controls as well as securities law violations. Further, in Florida a two-year limitation exists in which breaches of trust and financial misdealing as involved. For those who have or have in past held positions of public trust, such as elected and or appointed positions, the statutes in Florida require that prosecutions begin while in office or within two years of leaving, or resigning, an elected or appointed public position.