March 2, 2023 | Kentucky Law
Have you been charged with a crime that allegedly happened a long time ago in the Commonwealth of Kentucky? If so, you may be wondering how the prosecutor can wait so long to do so.
A prosecutor can charge you with murder in Kentucky no matter how long ago it happened; this is because there is no statute of limitations for murder (or any other felony crime) in the state.
What Is a Criminal Statute of Limitations?
The period starts from the date of the alleged offense or when it was discovered. The statute of limitations for crimes is codified in Kentucky Revised Statutes 500.050. Statutes of limitation also exist in civil cases depending on the type of lawsuit that you wish to file.
What Is the Purpose of a Statute of Limitations?
The purpose of a statute of limitations is to make sure that a criminal prosecution is fair to the defendant. Our criminal justice system is designed to ensure that each defendant has a fair trial. To have a fair trial, they must have an opportunity to defend themselves.
Evidence is lost when long periods of time pass between a crime and prosecution. If you are charged with a crime many years after it happened, it is harder to collect evidence to defend yourself.
Common examples of evidence include:
- Witness testimony
- Video footage
- DNA and scientific evidence
Over time, memories fade, and witnesses move and die. DNA and scientific evidence is contaminated or lost. Video and surveillance footage are deleted, and photographs and records are lost or purged. If you’re innocent, this can make it more difficult to put on a defense.
Statute of Limitations in Kentucky
Some states have specific statutes of limitations for each type of crime. Unlike these states, Kentucky has a simple statute of limitations structure.
Misdemeanors must be prosecuted within 1 year of the date of the offense. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $500 fine. Kentucky divides misdemeanors by severity into Class A, Class B, and Mini-Class B. The statute of limitations is the same for each type of misdemeanor.
The only exception is that a misdemeanor sex offense can be prosecuted until the victim is 28 years old. This accounts for the fact that many child victims of crimes do not report it to the police. In fact, 80% of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. Kentucky does not want to lose the opportunity to prosecute these crimes against minors.
Kentucky has no statute of limitations for felonies. You can be charged with a felony at any point, no matter how long has passed since the crime. This is unique because it makes it more difficult for people to collect evidence and defend themselves.
The purpose of having no statute of limitations is so that the Kentucky government can make sure that serious felonies are punished. They want to avoid people “getting away” with a crime just because it happened a long time ago.
Under Kentucky law, murder is when you intentionally kill someone. Murder is a felony that is punishable by death, life without parole, 25 years to life, or 20-50 years in prison. Since murder is a felony, it has no statute of limitations. The same is true for the lesser homicide offenses of manslaughter, including involuntary manslaughter.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney for Legal Help
If you’ve recently been charged with a crime based on an incident that happened some time ago, you likely have options available to you for your defense. You’re innocent until proven guilty, and it can be more difficult for the prosecution to establish its case in this type of scenario.
Most criminal defense lawyers in the state offer a free consultation, so it is likely worth your time to reach out and learn about your options.