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What is the statute of limitations on a DUI charge?

The statute of limitations on a DUI charge varies from state to state, and some regions, such as Massachusetts, do not have a statute of limitations at all. In general, if there is a statute of limitations on a DUI or OUI charge - that is, a maximum period of time between the committal of the crime and the charges being filed against you - it is generally relative to the severity of the charges. A statute of limitations on a misdemeanor DUI may be shorter than that of a felony DUI.

An example in Illinois
In Illinois, a misdemeanor DUI charge has a statute of limitation of 18 months, meaning, authorities are required to file charges against you within 18 months of your driving under the influence.

In the case of a felony DUI, Illinois' statute of limitations extends three years. Typically, the difference between a misdemeanour and a felony DUI charge is determined by:

  • The number of offenses
  • The BAC level
  • The severity of the accident or circumstance, if applicable.

Most first time offenders are charged with a misdemeanor, while second time or habitual offenders are charged with a felony. If your BAC level is well over the legal limit, if you cause injury or damage or if there are circumstances that make your crime especially severe in the eyes of the prosecutors, you may be charged with a felony.

Strict states
Some states, like Massachusetts, have no statute of limitations on a DUI, regardless of whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor.

In most DUI cases, the nature of the arrest means that charges will be brought about quickly. The constitution gives defendants the right to a speedy trial, and statute of limitations laws exist to ensure that suspects are not detained for long periods of time without being charged with a crime.

Other charges
In some cases, a DUI charge that is compounded with other charges can follow the statute of limitations for the more severe crime. If a DUI results in a fatality, for example, authorities may follow the statute of limitations rules for homicide, which are likely to be longer than statutes for DUI, if in fact the state has a statute of limitations on a DUI charge.

If you have been arrested for a DUI and you're unsure about your standing, it's best to talk to a DUI attorney. Being charged with a DUI is likely to have an affect on a variety of your affairs, and you'll want to keep abreast of any legal developments.