Years ago, you did something illegal. Maybe you sold some drugs or you stole a designer dress. Now you wonder if your past could catch up with you.

How long does the prosecution have to bring charges?

The answer depends on the offense. Naturally, a crime like murder is treated differently from stealing a dress.

Most crimes have a time limit on when charges may be brought referred to as the statute of limitations. In general, in Illinois, the time limit is three years for a felony and 18 months for a misdemeanor unless the criminal code says otherwise. Many identity theft-related crimes have a seven year limit.

The following offenses have no time limit: first or second degree murder, attempt to commit first degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, leaving the scene or failling to give information and render aid in a motor vehicle accident involving death or personal injuries, concealment of homicidal death, treason, arson, forgery or child pornography. There is also no time limit for any offense involving sexual conduct in which the DNA profile of the offender is obtained and entered into a DNA database within 10 years after the commission of the offense where either: (i) the victim reported the offense to law enforcement authorities within 3 years unless a longer period for reporting the offense to law enforcement authorities is provided or (ii) the victim is murdered during the course of the offense or within 2 years after the commission of the offense.

The statute of limitations may be further extended under certain circumstances such as where the victim is a minor or is legally disabled or there is a delay in discovering the offense.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. If your offense is outside the statute of limitations, an attorney may be able to petition the court to dismiss the charges.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter,please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

Source: 720 ILCS 5/3-5 General limitations statute and 720 ILCS 5/3-6 Extended limitations statute.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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