Statute of Limitations

In Utah, most criminal offenses are governed by a statute of limitations. The criminal statute of limitations in Utah protects against the burden of defending yourself against a crime that occurred so long in the past that memories have faded and evidence is more difficult to obtain.

In most criminal cases, the Statute of Limitations in Utah requires:

  • infraction charges have to be brought within one (1) year after the violation is committed;
  • misdemeanor charges, other than negligent homicide charges, have to be brought by the city or state attorney within two (2) years;
  • forcible sexual abuse or incest charges must be brought within eight (8) years after the offense is committed, so long as it is reported within four (4) years after the abuse was committed;
  • a felony must be brought within four (4) years.

For purposes of this rule on the statute of limitations, a prosecution is commenced upon:

  • the finding and filing of an indictment by a grand jury;
  • the filing of a complaint or information; or
  • the issuance of a citation.

For some of the most serious crimes in Utah, the statute of limitations contains a list of offenses for which prosecution can be commenced at any time. 

Special rules for the statute of limitations apply to prosecutions for the misusing public money, falsification or alteration of government records, bribery, and misconduct of public officer or employee. Special rules for the commencement of a prosecution also exist if DNA evidence would identify the defendant accused of a violent felony offense.

Attorney on the Statute of Limitations in Utah

The attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP in Salt Lake City, Utah, understand the way that Utah's Statute of Limitation might apply to your case.

Under Utah Code Section 76-1-306, when an issue concerning the statute of limitations is raised, the judge must determine by a preponderance of the evidence whether the prosecution is barred by the limitations.

Your criminal defense attorney can raise this defense by filing a motion to dismiss showing that the statute of limitations ran before the prosecution commenced.

The courts in Utah have held that the statute of limitations defense can be forfeited by the failure to raise it in a timely fashion in the trial court. If you enter a plea or go to trial without properly raising the defense, you might forfeit the right to raise this defense on appeal.

Call (801) 532-5297 today to find out how the statute of limitations might apply in your case.


The Tolling of Utah's Statute of Limitations

Under Utah Code Section 76-1-304, the period of limitation does not run against any defendant during any period of time in which the defendant is out of the state following the commission of an offense.

If the defendant has entered into a plea agreement with the prosecution and later successfully moves to invalidate his conviction, the period of limitation is suspended from the time of the entry of the plea pursuant to the plea agreement until the time at which the conviction is determined to be invalid, and that determination becomes final.


Offenses with No Statute of Limitations in Utah

Under Section 76-1-301(2), Utah law provides a list of offenses for which prosecution may be commenced at any time including:

  1. capital felony;
  2. aggravated murder;
  3. murder;
  4. manslaughter;
  5. child abuse homicide;
  6. aggravated kidnapping;
  7. child kidnapping;
  8. rape;
  9. rape of a child;
  10. object rape;
  11. object rape of a child;
  12. forcible sodomy;
  13. sodomy on a child;
  14. sexual abuse of a child;
  15. aggravated sexual abuse of a child;
  16. aggravated sexual assault;
  17. any predicate offense to a murder or aggravating offense to an aggravated murder;
  18. aggravated human trafficking or aggravated human smuggling in violation of Section 76-5-310; or
  19. aggravated exploitation of prostitution involving a child, under Section 76-10-1306.

Definitions for the Statute of Limitations in Utah

Under Section 76-1-301, the term "aggravating offense" is defined to mean any offense incident to which a homicide was committed as described in Subsection 76-5-202(1)(d) or (e) or Subsection 76-5-202(2).

The term "predicate offense" is defined to mean an offense described in Section 76-5-203(1) if a person other than a party as defined in Section 76-2-202 was killed in the course of the commission, attempted commission, or immediate flight from the commission or attempted commission of the offense.


Crimes with a Special Two Year Statute of Limitations Period

Some crimes in Utah, have a special two-year statute of limitations under Section 76-1-301.5, which applies to prosecutions for the following types of crimes:

  • misusing public money;
  • falsification of government records;
  • alteration of government records; and
  • bribery.

For these criminal offenses, the prosecution must be commenced within two years after facts constituting the offense have been reported to a prosecutor having responsibility and jurisdiction to prosecute the offense.


The Statute of Limitations for Prosecutions with DNA Evidence

Under Section 76-1-302, the time limitations for the prosecution of offenses can be extended when DNA evidence is used to identify the defendant including:

  1. a felony or negligent homicide shall be commenced within four years after it is committed, except that prosecution for:
    • forcible sexual abuse shall be commenced within eight years after the offense is committed, if within four years after its commission the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency; and
    • incest shall be commenced within eight years after the offense is committed if within four years after its commission the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency;
  2. a misdemeanor other than negligent homicide shall be commenced within two years after it is committed; and
  3. any infraction shall be commenced within one year after it is committed.

The Statute of Limitations for DNA Evidence Crimes

Under Section 76-1-302(2)(a), prosecution for the violent felony offenses listed in Subsections 76-3-203.5(1)(c)(i)(A) through (BB) may be commenced at any time if the identity of the person who committed the crime is unknown but DNA evidence is collected that would identify the person at a later date.

Those violent felony offenses listed in Subsections 76-3-203.5(1)(c)(i)(A) through (BB) include:

  1. aggravated arson, arson, knowingly causing a catastrophe, and criminal mischief under Title 76, Chapter 6, Part 1, Property Destruction;
  2. assault by prisoner under Section 76-5-102.5;
  3. disarming a police officer under Section 76-5-102.8;
  4. aggravated assault under Section 76-5-103;
  5. aggravated assault by prisoner under Section 76-5-103.5;
  6. mayhem under Section 76-5-105;
  7. stalking under Subsection 76-5-106.5(2) or (3);
  8. threat of terrorism under Section 76-5-107.3;
  9. child abuse under Subsection 76-5-109(2)(a) or (b);
  10. commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child under Section 76-5-109.1;
  11. abuse or neglect of a child with a disability under Section 76-5-110;
  12. abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult under Section 76-5-111;
  13. endangerment of a child or vulnerable adult under Section 76-5-112.5;
  14. criminal homicide offenses under Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 2, Criminal Homicide;
  15. kidnapping, child kidnapping, and aggravated kidnapping under Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 3, Kidnapping, Trafficking, and Smuggling; (P)
  16. rape under Section 76-5-402;
  17. rape of a child under Section 76-5-402.1;
  18. object rape under Section 76-5-402.2;
  19. object rape of a child under Section 76-5-402.3;
  20. forcible sodomy under Section 76-5-403;
  21. sodomy on a child under Section 76-5-403.1;
  22. forcible sexual abuse under Section 76-5-404;
  23. aggravated sexual abuse of a child or sexual abuse of a child under Section 76-5-404.1;
  24. aggravated sexual assault under Section 76-5-405;
  25. sexual exploitation of a minor under Section 76-5b-201;
  26. sexual exploitation of a vulnerable adult under Section 76-5b-202;
  27. aggravated burglary and burglary of a dwelling under Title 76, Chapter 6, Part 2, Burglary and Criminal Trespass;
  28. aggravated robbery and robbery under Title 76, Chapter 6, Part 3, Robbery;

If the statute of limitations would have run but for the provisions of Subsection (2) and identification of a perpetrator is made through DNA, a prosecution shall be commenced within one year of the discovery of the identity of the perpetrator.

This provision does not apply if the statute of limitations on a crime has run as of May 5, 2003, and no charges have been filed.


Special Statute of Limitations for Fraud Crimes

Under Utah Code Section 76-1-303, special time limitations apply for fraud or breach of fiduciary obligation involving misconduct of public officer or employee.

Under Subsection (1), if the period prescribed in Section 76-1-302 has expired, a prosecution may be commenced for any offense a material element of which is either fraud or a breach of fiduciary obligation within one year after a report of the offense has been filed with a law enforcement agency.

This provision in Utah Code Section 76-1-303(1), may not extend the period of limitation as provided in Section 76-1-302 by more than three years.

Under Utah Code Section 76-1-303(3), if the period prescribed in Section 76-1-301.5 or 76-1-302 has expired, a prosecution may be commenced for:

  1. any offense based upon misconduct in office by a public officer or public employee:
    1. at any time during which the defendant holds a public office or during the period of his public employment; or
    2. within two years after termination of defendant's public office or public employment.
  2. Except as provided in Section 76-1-301.5, Subsection (3) shall not extend the period of limitation otherwise applicable by more than three years.

Additional Resources

Statutes of Limitation Questions in Utah - Visit the website of the Utah Courts to find information on rules about the statute of limitation. The definition of the statute of limitations is the time allowed to file a court case. Find the statutes of limitation in the Utah Code. Find the many (but not all) criminal statutes of limitation in Utah Code §76-1-301 to §76-1-306.


This article was last updated on Friday, March 23, 2018.

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