Terese J. Singer

Wisconsin Statute of Limitations for Criminal Cases

By Reddin & Singer


If you are facing a criminal charge, the first thing your attorney should do is make sure that the charge is brought within the appropriate statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is defined as a type of state or federal time limit in which a lawsuit can be filed. The concept is a critical part of the civil and criminal justice system in the United States. Every state has its own statutes of limitations when it comes to different types of proceedings. These time frames are intended to prevent falsified and stale claims. The idea is to encourage individuals to act promptly before evidence is lost or forgotten.

The statute of limitations is a defense that can be asserted by defendants when a claim is brought after the time limit has passed. If the State or Federal Government files a criminal action after the statute of limitations has lapsed, he or she may be permanently barred from pursuing that legal claim altogether. When it comes to criminal cases, the statute of limitations typically begins to run on the date that the crime is committed.

In the state of Wisconsin, the criminal statute of limitations for various crimes is as follows:

  • Felonies – six years;
  • Misdemeanors – three years;
  • Second degree reckless homicide – 15 years;
  • First degree intentional homicide – no limit;
  • First degree reckless homicide – no limit;
  • Felony murder – no limit;
  • Second degree intentional homicide – no limit;
  • First degree sexual assault of a child – no limit;
  • Theft – up to five years.

It is important to note that the list above is not comprehensive. Additionally, there are several exceptions that may apply to the statute of limitations in a particular case. For example, in some cases, DNA evidence that identifies the perpetrator may prolong the time frame for prosecution. For this reason, it is imperative to consult an experienced attorney who will understand the nuances of the Wisconsin statutes of limitations.

In some cases, Wisconsin law permits tolling the statute of limitations. Tolling is a legal principle that permits pausing or delaying the running of the statute of limitations. The rationale is that, in certain circumstances, fairness requires delaying the application of the statute of limitations for a significant period of time. In Wisconsin, a time frame in which the offender was not a resident of Wisconsin does not count as part of the statute of limitations. Additionally, tolling typically occurs if a plaintiff is disabled, mentally incompetent, or a minor.

If you are facing a criminal charge, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Reddin & Singer, our Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers will examine the facts of your case and come up with a strategy based on your specific situation. We understand that examining the statute of limitations and being vigilant of legal time frames can make all the difference in your case. We believe the cornerstone of a solid attorney-client relationship is communication, which is why we encourage our clients to voice any concerns they have throughout the legal process. Do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at (414) 271-6400.

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