The following series of posts provides an overview of Minnesota’s criminal statute of limitations. If you are not interested in solely criminal law, you may want to learn more about Minnesota statute of limitation law in general.
These sections provide an overview criminal statute of limitations law in Minnesota:
- Policy Considerations
- Current Limitations Periods
- Practical Application
- Legislative History: Recent Changes to the Criminal Statute of Limitations
Most states provide certain limitations periods in which a criminal prosecution must be commenced.1 These limitations periods, which are contained in statutes, are usually called statutes of limitations. In general, limitations periods are longer for more serious offenses.2 In some states, there are no limitations periods for the most serious offenses.3
Statutes of limitations provide a nonexculpatory defense to a criminal defendant; accordingly, even if the accused is guilty, the statute of limitations will prevent a conviction if an action is not timely commenced.4
The legislature can eliminate or change a criminal statute of limitations, subject to retroactivity concerns.
The legislature cannot expand a criminal statute of limitation for a crime for which the existing statute of limitations has already expired. Such an application constitutes an ex-post facto law (punishing an act after it is committed) and is constitutionally barred. The legislature, however, may apply an extended limitations period to a crime committed before the enactment of the extension, if the limitations period for that crime has not run.5
The next post on Criminal Statutes of Limitations in Minnesota will cover policy consider policy considerations.
This and any related posts have been adopted from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department’s Information Brief, Criminal Statutes of Limitations, written by legislative analyst Rebecca Pirius.
1 See ROBINSON, PAUL H., CRIMINAL LAW DEFENSES, 462 (1984); see also 21 Am. Jur. 2d § 291 (observing that “statutes of limitation have been enacted to limit the time for commencement of most criminal proceedings”).
2 See ROBINSON, supra note 1, at 463.
3 See id.; see also 21 Am. Jur. 2d § 291 (noting that, “[a]s a general rule, the limitations are made applicable to all or most misdemeanors, and to some felonies, whereas murder is generally excepted; but sometimes all felonies are excepted.”).
4 See ROBINSON, supra note 1, at 465.
5 See Falter v. U.S., 23 F.2d 420, 425 (2d Cir. 1928), cert. denied, 277 U.S. 590, superceded by stat. as stated in U.S. v. Roselli, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18749 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 30, 1993); see also 21 Am. Jur. 2d § 294 (stating that “where a statute extends the period of limitation, the extension applies to offenses not barred at the time of the passage of the act, so that prosecution may be commenced at any time within the newly established period.”).