Last Updated on October 14, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team
Waiting for your case to be viewed by a prosecutor can be a daunting time, but pending times can vary from charge to charge.
This can be super confusing and frustrating – so just how long can you expect to wait for each specific charge?
If you want to learn more about times regarding pending felony charges, then this is the place for you.
We are going to be covering all your questions regarding pending felony charge times so you can have a better understanding of why they take so long and how long each felony charge takes to complete.
So, let’s dive in!
What Is A ‘Pending’ Felony Charge?
First up, let’s make sure we are all on the same page regarding pending felony charges – so what are they exactly?
A pending charge is defined as an accusation that has been made against someone (usually after a formal complaint, indictment, or even after an arrest) but charges have not officially been filed even though you are under investigation.
This means that a pending felony charge is when someone is under investigation for a felony charge but these charges have not been filed just yet.
In most situations, a charge is made shortly after the arrest and some places even give law enforcement a short window of 48 to 72 hours to press charges on those they have arrested.
However, in a pending felony case, the prosecutor of the case is still deciding what to do in regard to the charges.
This means that they may decide to reduce the charges or discard them all together – or keep it as it is.
More felony charges can also be brought forward during the pending time.
So, if you are pending a felony charge, this means that you are under investigation even though official charges have not been made yet.
They will not turn up on any background checks run on you as you have not been found guilty or been convicted.
This means pending cases or unconfirmed allegations will not enter your criminal record until after you have been found guilty.
Why Do Pending Felony Charges Take So Long?
As we mentioned earlier, in most criminal situations, a charge is made pretty shortly after an arrest.
This is because most arrests are for misdemeanors and less serious crimes when compared to felonies.
Misdemeanors in the United States include crimes such as reckless driving, shoplifting, trespassing, petty theft, indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, or simple assault.
These are minor yet everyday crimes that law enforcement face.
Felonies, on the other hand, are far more serious crimes and so the prosecutor takes more time to collect evidence and come to a decision regarding what charges to press.
Some examples of felony charges include rape, robbery, burglary, murder, reason, and drug trafficking.
As you can see, there is a serious jump from crimes such as petty theft to burglary and the prosecutor needs to take this into account.
The case is bigger and so, they take much longer to gather evidence in order to press charges.
So – just how long does it take for a pending felony charge to be filed?
How Long Pending Felony Charges Take?
Every state has its own laws regarding the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations refers to the time period after a crime has been committed in which the prosecutor can file charges.
This means that the maximum time you can have a pending felony charge over your head correlates to the statute of limitations for the type of crime committed and the state you are in.
Some felony charges have indefinite statute of limitations, which means that pending felony charge could be over your head for the rest of your life.
This is only for extreme crimes such as first degree and second degree murder, capital crimes or treason, as well as manslaughter and kidnapping.
This allows the prosecutor to continue gathering evidence, keeping the case open for years and years.
This doesn’t mean that you will always have the pending charge over your head – new evidence can come to light which proves your innocence and the accusation against you will be withdrawn.
However, the case itself will remain open as the statute of limitations cannot run out.
For other felonies, the statute of limitations can take years to run out.
In the case of first-degree rape, the statute of limitations is 20 years.
For second and third degree rape, the statute of limitations is much shorter at a maximum of 5 years.
Overall, the average statute of limitations for most felonies is around 5 years.
This is the case for burglary, robbery, and vehicular homicide. For arson, the statute of limitations is 10 years.
Any other felony charge is usually limited to 3 years but this can vary from state to state.
So, if we have not mentioned the crime for which you are awaiting a felony charge for already, it’s important to check the law in the state you are in.
This gives prosecutors plenty of time to gather all the evidence they need to take you to court and prove you guilty.
If they cannot find any viable evidence in the time frame given, the statute of limitations runs out and they cannot prosecute or try a person regardless of what new evidence may later come to light.
This means that once the statute of limitations runs out on a certain crime, you could literally make a confession and still get away with it.
Statutes Of Limitations For Felonies Per State
So, most states offer a statute of limitations for felonies for a period of 3 years.
This can vary depending on the seriousness of the crime but a majority of US states follow this rule.
The following states all have a statutes of limitations of 3 years for felonies:
- North Dakota
In some states, the statute of limitations is actually shorter like in Mississippi or Pennsylvania where it is only 2 years – but in most, it’s longer.
In Georgia and Utah, the statute of limitations for felonies not punishable by death is 4 years.
Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, have a statute of limitations of 5 years for any felonies committed there.
In Arkansas, the statute of limitations for felonies depends on its seriousness again with some having 6 years while others have 3.
Louisiana follows a similar process except it’s 6 years for felonies punishable by imprisonment at hard labor and 4 years for other felonies.
Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts have a statute of limitations of 6 years for felonies.
In Arizona and South Dakota, prosecutors have 7 years to file felony criminal charges.
Michigan has a statute of limitations of 10 years for most felonies.
In Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and Maryland, all felonies have no statute of limitations, meaning that felony charges can be filed at any time with no exception.
Tennessee is a rare case because it ranks its felonies by seriousness and the statute of limitations ranges widely from 15 years to just 2 in some minor felony cases.
So, how long a pending felony charge can take varies massively depending on the state laws and the crime itself.
This makes working out how long you have until charges can be brought against you super tricky, so talk to your lawyer for more information and check out the guide above for additional help!