Yes, arrest warrants do expire. Florida law imposes an expiration on most arrest warrants and mandates that prosecution must commence within a certain period of time. If the state fails to arrest the suspect by the deadline, the case may terminate. There are exceptions to this rule, however.
Statutes of Limitations for Criminal Offenses in Florida
Per Florida Statute § 775.15, the expiration on an arrest warrant depends on the category of the offense:
- Capital felonies, life felonies, and felonies that result in death: No time limit. The state can commence prosecution at any time.
- First-degree felonies: Four years
- Second- and third-degree felonies: Three years
- First-degree misdemeanors: Two years
- Second-degree misdemeanors and noncriminal violations: One year
- Felonies that result in personal injury arising from “destructive devices”: 10 years
- Felonies involving several types of fraud: Five years
- Felonies involving elder abuse or neglect: Five years
When the Clock Starts Ticking on Arrest Warrants
The allotted statute of limitations begins the day after the crime occurred. The case remains valid so long as prosecution commences before the expiration date. When “prosecution” begins depends on whether the defendant has ever been previously arrested for the charge:
Prosecution for a charge that has already resulted in the defendant’s arrest or summons to court commences when the prosecutor files the indictment or information (arrest warrant).
Prosecution on a charge that has not resulted in the defendant’s arrest or summons to court commences when the prosecutor files an indictment or information, provided the authorities execute the arrest, summons, or other applicable process without unreasonable delay.
Important Exceptions to Arrest Warrant Expiries
The law provides three important exceptions to time limits on prosecution.
Cases For Serious Felonies Never Expire
As aforementioned, cases that involve capital or life felonies or felonies involving death have no limit. The police can arrest someone for these types of crimes even decades after the suspect committed them.
Reasonable Delays Can Extend The Expiration Date
If the prosecution team can successfully prove to the court that it had a good reason for making an arrest and commencing prosecution for a case after the statute of limitations ended, the court may still deem the case valid. In determining the reasonableness of a delay, the court will consider factors such as the authorities’ inability to locate a defendant and the defendant’s absence from the state.
Fleeing or Hiding Suspends The Statute Of Limitation
The clock on the statute of limitation temporarily stops running when the defendant is “continuously absent from the state or has no reasonably ascertainable place of abode or work within the state.” However, the law puts a three-year cap on this tolling provision, i.e., the clock for defendants that left the state will only pause for a maximum of three years.
Prosecution Statute of Limitations Vs. Speedy Trial Rights
Many people confuse the time limit on prosecution with defendants’ right to a speedy trial. While both concepts involve time limits on when the authorities can prosecute someone, these provisions are different and mutually exclusive.
The difference lies in when the clock starts ticking:
Time Limit On Prosecution
The clock begins the day after the offender committed the crime. If law enforcement tries to arrest you after the allotted time period, the court may invalidate and dismiss your case.
Time Limit On Trial
The clock begins the day of the arrest. Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.191(a) details the speedy trial provision: “every person charged with a crime shall be brought to trial within 90 days of arrest if the crime charged is a misdemeanor, or within 175 days of arrest if the crime charged is a felony.”
There are exceptions to this rule. For specific case-related questions, call our office and speak to a member of our staff.
Free Legal Consult with a Goldman Wetzel Defense Attorney
If you have an outstanding arrest warrant, have recently been arrested for a crime, or have questions related to criminal charges in Florida, our defense team at Goldman Wetzel can help.
We provide legal counsel and representation to Floridians facing all kinds of charges, including misdemeanors and felonies. We can review your file, inform you of the status of your case, and help you proceed in the smartest manner, such as fighting the validity of your charges or negotiating your surrender.
With unresolved charges, your future and freedom hang in the balance. Let us try to help clear up the case. Contact our office at 727-828-3900 for a free consultation.