Is There a Statute of Limitations in New Mexico for Crimes?
Years ago, lawmakers realized that there had to be a limit set for how long the state had to charge an alleged defendant with a crime. These laws were designed to protect someone from being charged for a crime years (or even decades) after the fact when the defendant no longer has access to witnesses or evidence necessary to clear their name.
In the United States, these laws are known as statutes of limitation. Every state has set statutes for criminal acts under their jurisdiction, and they set limits on how long prosecutors have to file charges.
If the state tries to file charges after the time has passed, you can request that the case be dismissed.
Non-violent crimes typically have a shorter time limit, but violent crimes have an extended period. Also, there are instances where the state might be able to charge you past the statute, and the statute of limitations could be tolled or even suspended.
What Albuquerque Defendants Should Know about the Statute of Limitations
New Mexico Statute Section 30-1-8 outlines all statutes of limitations by the crime class.
No Statute of Limitations for Capital Felonies and First-Degree Violent Felonies
Regardless of how long ago the crime was committed, there is no statute of limitations for capital felonies or first-degree felonies in the state (and for most states in the country).
A capital felony in New Mexico includes the most serious criminal acts, such as:
- Premeditated murder
- Felony murder
- Aggravated sexual penetration
- Depraved mind murder
These are all violent crimes that the state will not allow any limitation on. Therefore, a defendant could be charged width the crime even if it was 20 or 30 years after the fact.
Statute of Limitation for Felony Charges: 5 to 6 Years
The statute for felony crimes vary by their degree. A second-degree felony carries a limitation of six years, but a third and fourth-degree felony only has five years after the date the crime was allegedly committed.
Statute of Limitations on Misdemeanors: 1 to 2 Years
Misdemeanors, which include crimes non-violent in nature, are more serious than petty misdemeanors. Several crimes may fall into this category, including battery against a spouse (domestic violence), shoplifting merchandise that exceeds $250 but less than $500 in value, or trespassing. For misdemeanors, there is a two-year limitation.
Petty misdemeanors are the least serious type of crime and often include acts like simple battery or shoplifting merchandise under $250 in value. In these cases, a person rarely serves time in jail, and if they do, it is a very short sentence. Therefore, the law limits prosecutors to just one year for their statute of limitations.
Identity Theft Crimes
Identity theft is a different category of crimes, and the law specifically allows up to five years to prosecute someone for this act.
When Is the Statute of Limitations Tolled?
Tolling is a term used for when the statute of limitations is paused while the victim either becomes an adult (reaches the age of 18) or when the crime is reported in situations of child abuse, abandonment, sexual penetration of a minor, and sexual contact with a minor.
Likewise, the statute of limitations can be tolled if the alleged suspect flees the state. Therefore, if you were to commit a crime and flee to another state, you cannot stay there hoping your statute of limitations will run out and you are able to return free. Instead, the clock would start when you return – which gives prosecutors extra time to gather evidence and build their case.
Your Right to a Speedy Trial
As a defendant in a criminal trial, you have the right to a speedy trial. That is why lawmakers agree to a statute of limitations. This is because your Sixth Amendment rights prohibit prosecutors from delaying criminal proceedings and leaving you with little evidence to defend yourself.
Likewise, even if a prosecutor files charges within the statute of limitations rules, the judge may dismiss the case if they feel that the prosecution did not move the trial along quickly enough and your Sixth Amendment rights were violated in the process.
Claiming the Statute of Limitations Has Ended Is an Affirmative Defense
If the statute of limitations clock has indeed run out on your case, then you would be mounting an affirmative defense. Even if the clock has passed, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney. Sometimes, there are those rare instances where prosecutors can argue they qualify for tolling. Therefore, your case may be well within the window to prosecute you.
A defense attorney can protect you from situations like this and ensure that, if the statute of limitations has run out, the prosecution does not try to exploit a tolling rule or suspend it.
Furthermore, you want a criminal defense attorney by your side to defend you, present your argument to the judge, and hopefully have the case dismissed for being past the statute of limitations deadline.
Even if the deadline has not been reached, you will need an attorney. Criminal charges, even misdemeanor charges, are very serious. You should never shrug off the threat of a permanent criminal record. Once you have a criminal record established, it follows you for the rest of your life. You may be unable to find work, qualify for housing, and be disqualified from financial aid.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney, Now
If you have been arrested for a crime, regardless of how long ago that crime happened, you need an advocate who makes clearing your name their top priority. Speak with the experienced, aggressive team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today. We are here to provide you with the defense you deserve, and we will devise a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome in your case.
Call us now to schedule your no-obligation case evaluation or send us a message online to discuss setting an appointment for your case.