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What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Murder?

A story recently emerged from Carbon County that has many people relieved, and has others asking questions. In early April, state police reported that they had solved a cold case dating back to 1976. The case involved a girl that at the time was nicknamed “Beth Doe” because police could not identify her. The girl was murdered while pregnant and her body was found in three different suitcases that police determined at the time had been thrown off a bridge.

Beth Doe was identified as by her actual name after her nephew searched a genealogical database using his DNA. After police matched the dead women’s DNA to the unidentified murder victim, they charged her then-boyfriend with the murder. Of course, the dead women’s family members are relieved that the case has been concluded, but others are asking how these charges could be brought now. After all, what is the statute of limitations on murder in Pennsylvania?

What is the Statute of Limitations?

Both criminal and civil cases in the state are governed by a statute of limitations. In civil cases, the statute of limitations dictates the length of time someone has to file a lawsuit. In criminal cases, the statute of limitations outlines the length of time the prosecution has to file charges against a person.

The statute of limitations is intended to ensure that important evidence is not destroyed over a period of time. The law also recognizes that no one deserves to potentially face criminal charges for an indefinite length of time. Law enforcement is also supposed to investigate a crime as quickly and efficiently as possible, so they can remove criminals from the street so they cannot harm anyone else.

The statute of limitations is usually pretty strict in both criminal and civil cases. However, there are exceptions. For example, if someone moved out of state or went into hiding to avoid criminal charges, the statute of limitations can be tolled until it is possible for the prosecution to bring charges.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Murder?

While the majority of criminal offenses in Pennsylvania are governed by a statute of limitations, this is not true for all crimes. Murder, conspiracy to commit murder, vehicular homicides, and voluntary manslaughter are just some of the serious felonies that do not have a statute of limitations. As shown in the most recent case, this means that a person may face these charges even decades after they allegedly committed the offense.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Can Help with Your Case

Due to the fact that serious felonies such as murder do not have a statute of limitations, it is even more important that you speak to a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer if you are charged. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our knowledgeable attorneys know how to refute the evidence that may not have been properly preserved, and raise other defenses that can help with your case.


For more information about the statute of limitations for murder in Pennsylvania, contact us today at (215) 486-0123!

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