Statute of Limitations

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Definition of Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the legal restriction which limits the amount of time for a criminal or civil case to be brought to trial or for a case to be filed against the defendant. The statute of limitations for a crime are critical because they force cases to be prosecuted before all the evidence and facts of the case have been destroyed or lost or witnesses have forgotten the facts of the case. Statutes of limitations have been a fundamental part of United State's law for years.

A statute of limitation exists for most criminal cases, except murder. For murder the court may file a charge and attempt to convict the defendant whenever they have enough evidence. For other crimes, if the statute of limitation expires, the court will not have the jurisdiction to punish the defendant. For civil charges, states have created different deadlines depending on the cause of the action. Laws vary for personal injury, medical malpractice, fraud, libel and contract law.

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