Both criminal and civil cases in Colorado are subject to the state’s statutes of limitations, or the allowed amount of time for a victim or prosecutor to begin legal proceedings against a party at fault or an alleged perpetrator. A statute is a law, and statutes of limitations are laws that impose a time limit for plaintiffs in a case that begins on the date an incident occurred and ends after a preset number of years. For example, with exceptions for delayed discovery, injury victims have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit against a liable party in Colorado. Prosecutors have 18 months after the date a theft was discovered in which to file misdemeanor theft charges.
Statutes of limitations have been a part of legal proceedings since the days of Roman law and serve both to protect defendants from the indefinite threat of legal proceedings and to ensure that cases come to court in a timely manner while evidence remains fresh and eyewitness testimony is still reliable. However, some crimes in Colorado are so egregious, that the courts do not impose a time limit for legal actions.
Crimes in Colorado With No Statute of Limitations
As in most states, Colorado places longer time limits for victims and prosecutors to file charges for many types of violent crimes. Some crimes have no statute of limitations in place at all so victims and prosecutors may choose to move forward with charges at any time. This allows victims of violent crimes to achieve justice even if it takes many years for evidence to come to light. Crimes with no statute of limitations in Colorado include:
- Murder (both first and second-degree)
- Felony forgery
- Sexual assault has no statute of limitations if DNA evidence identifies the perpetrator but a statute of limitations of 20 years remains in place in sexual assault cases lacking DNA evidence.
No Statute of Limitations for Sex Crimes Against Children in Colorado
Colorado takes crimes against children very seriously and places no statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children (defined as children under age 15) including:
- Sexual assault, sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a child from one in a position of trust
- Enticement of a child
- Unlawful sexual contact
- Aggravated incest
- Sexual exploitation of children
- Human sex trafficking of a minor
- Soliciting for child prostitution
- Procurement of a child
- Pandering of a child
- Indecent exposure
- Keeping a place of child prostitution
- Pimping of a child
- Patronizing a child prostitute
- Internet sexual exploitation of a child
- Internet luring of a child
- Unlawful electric sexual communication with a child
What is “Tolling” of the Statutes of Limitations in Colorado
In some cases, the statute of limitations for legal filings can be placed on hold—or tolled. Tolling means the state stops the clock on the statute of limitations when the perpetrator of a crime or the liable party in a personal injury case has fled the state or evaded prosecution. Tolling stops the statute of limitations clock in Colorado for up to five years.