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Statute of Limitations: When does the time run out from being charged and COVID-19.

There is a time limit on the government to bring a criminal charge against you. Once the time limit is over, you can no longer be prosecuted for that crime. One of the reasons that a time limit exist is that the constitution protects every person with certain rights.

In Massachusetts, the amount of time that the government has to charge you depends on the type of crime. For most crimes, the statute of limitations is six years. However, similar to almost every law ever written, there are a million exceptions. The statute of limitations are governed by Mass General Laws, Chapter 277, section 63.


So what happens when you don't have a "general crime?" Well the statute list many specific crimes that give the government a much longer period of time to prosecute. The most obvious one is murder. There is no time limit that ever protects a person from being prosecuted for murder.


Sexual assault charges are another area with very different statute of limitation requirements. Some sexual assault charges have no time limit, however, if 27 years have elapsed since the crime, the prosecutor must provide independent corroborating evidence in addition to the victim's account.


To complicate matters, not all time counts towards the statute of limitations. If the prosecutor can prove that the defendant has fled the state or evade law enforcement, that time that the defendant is on the run until his capture doesn't count towards the statute of limitations.


With the COVID-19 crisis, the Supreme Judicial Court or the state highest court has tolled the statute of limitations. That means that SJC has decided that the time delay happening right now doesn't count towards preventing the government from prosecuting someone if the time limit would have otherwise run out. Massachusetts has never experienced courts being closed for such a long period of time. There is much more litigation that will certainly come when this pandemic is over.

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