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Is there a statute of limitations on federal drug charges?

On Behalf of | May 16, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes

Imagine the government discovers you manufacture, possess or sell a controlled substance or illegal drug. In that situation, the police can arrest and take you into custody. You could be subject to federal drug charges.

In some instances, people commit a drug offense, do not get caught, and, years later wonder if the government can come after them or if there is a time limit on how long they can, which is called a statute of limitations.

Legal protections against wrongful incarceration

Suppose the government arrests an individual for federal drug crimes. After the arrest, the prosecutor usually has about three days to officially file the charges or release the person from police custody. During this period, the prosecutor reviews all available and admissible evidence against the accused and makes their decision.

Statutes of limitations on drug charges

Each state has its statute of limitations for drug crimes. Under federal laws, the government has up to five years after committing the crime to bring charges against an individual. While some offenses are exempt, the federal government does not prosecute most drug charges 60 months after the alleged violation.

In certain situations, such as drug conspiracy charges, that time could be longer if the government learns of additional people involved in the crime, for example, conspiracy crimes or drug rings. In these cases, the statute of limitations can be longer.

Changes in drug laws

Remembering that federal drug laws can change and often do with each administration is critical. For example, in 2013, Attorney General Holder from the U.S. Department of Justice decided not to pursue mandatory minimum sentences in some instances involving possession.

While the federal statute of limitations for filing charges for drug crimes is typically five years, there are exceptions, and some drugs and crimes are exempt from this statute. If you are concerned about this, it is crucial to thoroughly understand the law as it applies to your case.