statute of limitationsAlabama Places A Statute of Limitations On Most Felony And All Misdemeanor Charges


In Alabama, all misdemeanor charges are subject to a statute of limitations of one year.  Under Alabama law regarding criminal procedure, and unless otherwise provided in the Alabama Code, the prosecution of all misdemeanors in a circuit or district court must be commenced within 12 months after the commission of the offense.  See Alabama Code § 15-3-2.


Most Alabama felony offenses have a statute of limitations period of five years.  See Alabama Code § 15-3-1.  However, there are notable exceptions to the five year statute of limitations on felony offenses.  These exceptions are listed below:

The following Alabama criminal offenses do not have a statute of limitations:

  • Capital Offenses
  • Felony’s involving the use of, or attempted use, or threat of violence against a person
  • Felonies involving serious physical injury or death
  • Any sex offense involving a person under 16 years old
  • Felony arson offenses
  • Felony forgery offenses
  • Felony counterfeiting
  • Felony drug trafficking offenses

Special Rule for Property Offenses

According to the Alabama code, a prosecution for unlawfully taking or using temporarily the property of another must be commenced within 30 days after the commission of the offense.  See Alabama Code § 15-3-4.  However, in the case of Baker v. State, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held that the three year statute of limitations in § 15-3-1 was the statute of limitations that should be applied despite the wording of § 15-3-4.

When is a Prosecution “commenced” for Purposes of the Statute of Limitations

A prosecution is “commenced” for purposes of the statute of limitations when there is an indictment issued, a warrant issued, or where the defendant is bound over to the grand jury.  See Alabama Code § 15-3-7.  A prosecutor may “stop the clock” by issuing a warrant or an indictment.  However, special rules apply to such situations, such as the requirement that the initial warrant or indictment must be for the same offense as that which is ultimately prosecuted.  Also, in a recently decided Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals case, the court held that a void indictment does not “toll” the statute of limitations.

Special Rule for Conversion of Public Funds

There is a special statute for the conversion or taking of public funds.  A prosecution for conversion of state or county revenue must be commenced within six years.


If you are faced with a criminal charge, it is critical to talk to a lawyer who is experienced in criminal defense.  The sooner the better.  Bradford Ladner, LLP. has over 30 years of experience helping people facing serious criminal charges.  We can help you too.  


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