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What is the statute of limitations for a felony charge in Utah?

For most Utah felony charges, a prosecution case must be filed within four years of when it is committed. If charges are not filed within the limitation period, future prosecution can be forever prohibited. But there are a number of exceptions to this four-year statute of limitations for more serious felony charges.

Under Utah Code Ann. 76-1-301, there is no time limitation on when a prosecution can be filed for the following charges: (a) capital felony; (b) aggravated murder; (c) murder; (d) manslaughter; (e) child abuse homicide; (f) aggravated kidnapping; (g) child kidnapping; (h) rape; (i) rape of a child; (j) object rape; (k) object rape of a child; (l) forcible sodomy; (m) sodomy on a child; (n) sexual abuse of a child; (o) aggravated sexual abuse of a child; (p) aggravated sexual assault; or (q) any predicate offense to a murder or aggravating offense to an aggravated murder.

Charges for forcible sexual abuse or incest must be filed within eight years after the offense is committed, if the offense is reported to police within four years after its commission. There are also certain exceptions that can extend the time period for filing charges involving fraud or a breach of fiduciary duty by up to three years. Additionally, if a defendant is out of state, the statute of limitations period is considered to not run against that defendant.

The statute of limitations for most misdemeanors and infractions is significantly shorter. But for either a misdemeanor or a felony, criminal charges can be barred if prosecutors fail to file charges within the limitations period imposed by the statute.

Don't Utah prosecutors have to file charges within 72 hours?

There is a common misconception that prosecutors must file charges within 72 hours from the time you are arrested and booked into jail. This misconception probably comes from the fact that if charges are not filed within 72 hours, you will probably be released from jail. But a statute of limitations is different from what is sometimes called the "72-hour" rule. Under Utah's statute of limitations for criminal charges, Utah Code Ann. 76-1-302, prosecutors have a much longer time period to file charges.

Just because you are released from jail does not mean that charges cannot be filed later. If you are released from jail without a notice of a court date, it is best to contact a Utah criminal defense attorney. An experienced defense attorney can help evaluate your case and give you a better idea of what to expect next.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Utah

If you have been arrested, charged with a crime, or if you believe that police are investigating you, consultation with an attorney can be critical to achieving a successful outcome in your case. As an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard has successfully defended clients in felony and misdemeanor cases ranging from homicide to DUI, and virtually everything in between.

Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation.


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  • Selected Victories
  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Charges of insurance fraud were brought when investigators found reason to believe that client's claim of injury was fraudulent. Client was seen kicking a soccer ball, and investigators concluded that the injury claim was false. By obtaining medical records and other administrative records, and by pointing out to the prosecutor that the alleged injury interferred with the client's ability to lift - not his ability to kick a ball - the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case.
  • Criminal Appeals Defense AttorneyDismissed on Appeal - DUI case was dismissed after a successful appeal where the Utah Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the defense motion to suppress. Without the suppressed evidence, the prosecutor acknowledged that they did not have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and the case was dismissed.
  • Utah Expungement Lawyer Expunged - Client with prior conviction for violent felony was ineligible for expungement through the courts. A successful 2-step reduction restored expungement eligibility and ultimately led to the court's decision to grant the requested expungement.
  • Violent Crimes Assalt Defense UtahProbation - Client charged with aggravated robbery based on allegations he entered a store with a gun and mask and demanded cash. Client confessed to police before hiring a defense attorney. Defense mitigation efforts resulted in a negotiated resolution that removed life in prison as a possibility, and secured a probation sentence from the court.
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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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