Statute of Limitations in North Carolina for Criminal Offenses


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.


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 stopped.

Malicious Misdemeanors

A case for a malicious misdemeanor can be started 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


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.

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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