Statute of Limitations in North Carolina for Criminal Offenses


What is the Statute of Limitations in NC?

A statute of limitations sets a time limit for prosecutors to file criminal charges in a case. The statute of limitations in NC is different for a misdemeanor than for a felony. If a prosecutor brings charges against someone after the applicable time period has expired, the person charged can have the case dismissed.

The expiration of a criminal statute of limitations doesn’t mean that a prosecutor can’t file criminal charges in a case. It is up to the defense attorney for the criminal defendant to raise the issue in court. If the defense does not move for dismissal of charges based on the running of the limitations period, then the prosecution moves forward. It is critical to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Coolidge Law Firm who can answer your questions regarding the statute of limitations in NC for criminal offenses.

Limitations and Time Limits for Criminal Lawsuits in North Carolina

In North Carolina, the criminal justice system operates within certain limitations and time constraints to ensure a fair and efficient legal process. The state imposes specific statutes of limitations that determine the maximum time period during which criminal charges can be filed against an individual. These limitations vary depending on the nature of the offense committed. For instance, certain serious felonies such as murder, rape, and arson have no statute of limitations, meaning charges can be brought at any time. However, less severe offenses, such as misdemeanors, generally have shorter limitations, typically ranging from one to two years. It is important to note that the statute of limitations can be tolled or extended under certain circumstances, such as when the accused is absent from the state or when new evidence emerges. It is crucial for both defendants and prosecutors to be aware of these limitations to ensure the timely initiation of legal proceedings and to protect the rights of all parties involved.


In North Carolina, most misdemeanors carry a two-year time limit with certain exceptions of abuse and sexual assault against children. (N.C. Gen. Statute 15-1 (2020).) A case for deceit, malicious mischief, or petit larceny where the value of the property is no more than $5 must be started within 2 years. If the case has to be stopped because a pleading is defective, a new case can be started within one year of the date the case was stopped.

Malicious Misdemeanors

A case for a malicious misdemeanor can be started at any time, with no statute of limitations. Malice can be difficult for the State to prove; however, in some cases, previous convictions can lead to an automatic assumption of malice. A misdemeanor that shows malice means that the accused was malicious in carrying out the crime. Many misdemeanor crimes against children must be started within 10 years such as the following:

  • Sexual battery
  • Indecent liberties between children
  • Child abuse
  • Failure to report abuse, neglect, dependency, or death of a child due to maltreatment
  • Failure to report crimes against juveniles

Felonies Have No Statute of Limitations in North Carolina

A felony has no statute of limitations so it can be filed at any time. This means that a person can be arrested many years after the crime. Most prosecutors focus on old cases like murder and sexual assault but any felony can be charged.

Statute of Limitations on Assault in NC

If you have been accused of assault in North Carolina, it is important to understand the statute of limitations that applies to such charges. The statute of limitations sets a specific timeframe within which the victim can press charges after an assault occurs.

In North Carolina, the statute of limitations for filing assault and battery charges is 2 years. It is essential to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the legal proceedings, help you understand your rights, and assist in building a strong defense. By being proactive and seeking appropriate legal counsel, you can effectively address the accusations and work towards a fair resolution.

What is the 10-Year Statute of Repose in NC?

The 10-year rule in North Carolina is a law that sets time limits for different legal actions. Let’s see when it applies:

  1. When a judge makes a decision: If a judge or court makes a decision, people involved in the case have ten years to take action based on that decision. They can’t keep bringing the same case again and again after ten years.
  2. When there’s a written agreement: If people have a written agreement about property, like a house or land, they have ten years to take legal action if something goes wrong. This rule also says that if someone is sued because of that agreement, they can also make their own claim within ten years, even if they would normally have less time to do it.
  3. When someone wants to take back a property: If someone has a mortgage on a property or owes money to others, those others have ten years to take legal action to take the property back if the person doesn’t pay or doesn’t follow the agreement. This ten-year period starts when the mortgage is lost, the right to sell the property is absolute, or the last payment is made.
  4. When someone wants to buy back property or land: If someone has given their property to someone else temporarily because they couldn’t pay their debts, they have ten years to buy it back. The ten-year time limit starts when they have the right to take action.

Please remember that this information is simplified, and if you need more specific details or legal advice, it’s always a good idea to talk to a lawyer or an adult who knows more about these laws.

Facing Criminal Charges? Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Today!

If you think you may be charged with a crime, speak to a Raleigh criminal defense attorney today. Our experienced attorneys can advise you on preparing for your case.

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