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Facts - Books - News    U.S. Facts Of Law:

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is generally a law defining the maximum amount of time after a crime or civil grievance that legal action may be taken against the perpetrator.  Statutes exist in both the criminal code and the civil code for such limitations also known as periods of prescription.

To illustrate, it is common for states to have a statute of limitations requiring that lesser crimes or misdemeanors may only be prosecuted within three years of the date of the crime.  After the three year period has passed, the person responsible for the misdemeanor cannot be prosecuted if proceedings have not already begun.  A similar statue of limitation for a breach of contract might allow for civil action to commence only within the six years after the breach.

There are similar statutes limiting the period in which a creditor may bring action against a non-paying debtor.  The time frame of the limitation may begin anew should the debtor acknowledge the debt with partial payment or agree to waive protection from the statute.

Some extreme crimes, such as murder, do not have a statute of limitations in many states.  A person committing murder in 2007 could conceivably be found and brought to justice in 2050 or beyond.  Murder is such a grievous crime that it is felt no one should be allowed to get away with it. Courts have even ruled that some acts of pollution do not fall under the protection of the laws of limitation from prosecution.

The time limitation on the crime or infraction normally begins when the event in question occurs.  However, sometimes the limitation will not begin to run until the action creating an infraction reveals itself.  An example would be a product defect causing injury that turned up long after a product was manufactured.  Some cases even involve litigation over the exact date that the time limitation should begin to run.

In real estate law there is a statute of limitations known as a statute of repose.  This statute limits the amount of time that building or property defects or hazards may be brought to litigation or the owner prosecuted for neglect.  Defects or hazards that should be obvious, such as a hole in the ground are treated differently than hidden problems such as an electrical wiring defect.


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Facts of Law explaining the statute of limitation law

Facts of Law - Statute of Limitations