Statutes of Limitation
A statute of limitation is the time allowed to file a court case. Statutes of limitation apply in both civil and criminal cases. The statute of limitations for some cases is as short as six months, while some serious criminal offenses have no limit and can be filed at any time, even decades after the crime occurred. Most statutes of limitation range from one to eight years.
You can find statutes of limitation in the Utah Code.
- Many (but not all) criminal statutes of limitation are found in Utah Code §76-1-301 to §76-1-306.
- Many (but not all) civil statutes of limitation are found in Utah Code Title 78B, Chapter 2.
- If you are using a print version the Utah Code, look in the Index under the heading Limitation of Actions.
- You can also search the Utah Code online. Search for the terms "statute of limitations" or "limitation of actions."
Statutes of limitation can be complicated. To make sure you are relying on the right one in your case, consider talking to an attorney. Otherwise, your case could be over before it ever starts.
The consequence for relying on the wrong time limitation can be severe. If the statute of limitations has "run" or passed:
- In criminal cases, the defendant cannot be prosecuted for that offense.
- In civil cases, the defendant can ask the court to dismiss the case.
When Does the Clock Start Ticking?
Deciding on the right time limit can be difficult and can be complicated by deciding when the clock begins to run. In some cases, it starts from the date of harm. In other cases, it starts from the date the harm was discovered or should have been discovered, or not until a minor reaches age 18. There are other triggers as well. It is important to know when to start counting time.
Sometimes the Clock Stops
There are also things that can "toll" or suspend the running of the time limit. Look for tolling circumstances in the Utah Code and in the decisions of the Utah Court of Appeals and Utah Supreme court that interpret the Utah Code.
See our Finding Legal Help page for information about ways to get legal help. One way to talk to an attorney is to visit a free legal clinic. Clinics provide general legal information and give brief legal advice. You might also hire an attorney for just part of your case or to do one particular thing, rather than represent you for the whole case. Legal help is also available at discounted rates for people with modest incomes.