A statute of limitation is a state or federal law that prevents legal claims from being made after a certain period of time has elapsed from the original incident. The time period is dependent on both the type of claim and the jurisdiction where the incident occurred. The statute of limitations Arizona residents face is established by the date the event that warrants legal action took place. If you are the victim of a crime, you must bring legal action before the designated time period elapses if you are to pursue justice. Here’s what you need to know about Arizona’s statutes of limitation.
Purpose of Statute of Limitations Arizona Laws
The statutes of limitations in Arizona vary by type of claim, both between the civil and criminal cases as well as among the different types of civil claims. The purpose of a statute of limitations is to protect a defendant from facing a never-ending threat of litigation as well as encourage lawsuits to be brought when there is still sufficient and important evidence readily available. If the plaintiff doesn’t bring a case or lawsuit within the allowed time period, the case against the defendant will be dismissed even when it’s evident the defendant would be legally liable.
In a civil case, the burden of proof is often much lighter than what is required to prove a criminal case. Rather than presenting evidence indicating the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil case depends on presenting that what is alleged is more likely than not to have occurred.
Statute of Limitations Arizona Civil Claims
In a civil lawsuit, one individual is able to seek retribution or justice against another person and hold them liable for some wrongful act or type of harm. The person bringing the lawsuit is called the plaintiff, and the person accused is the defendant. Civil lawsuits can be brought for a number of reasons, and if the plaintiff is successful, the court may award monetary damages as compensation to be paid by the defendant. Businesses and other entities are also able to bring civil lawsuits and are subject to the same statute of limitations Arizona law mandates when bringing suit.
Common Civil Claims
Because civil cases can be brought by anyone, there is a wide range of possible claims that may be filed. Rather than facing time behind bars, defendants faced monetary penalties. Cases brought before civil courts can include:
- Contract disputes
- Personal injury claims
- Class action suits
- Equitable claims
- Property disputes
- Family law or divorce disputes
Time Limits for Civil Claims
Plaintiffs looking for justice or compensation for a civil incident have the following timeframe allowances in the state of Arizona. There are specific forms and instructions depending on the exact cases brought, but this is a general guide to the statute of limitations Arizona residents must abide by.
There is a one-year time period for claims involving wrongful termination, breach of employment contracts, slander, libel, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and liability created by statute. Statutory liability refers to negligence, omission or actions that occur and can be tied to related law. These claims could be brought against a company for laws regarding standard business operations, such as an employee claiming discrimination or infringement of rights under the Employment Rights Act. Breach of promise of marriage or seduction also falls under a one-year time limit.
Within Arizona, there is a two-year time limit for filing a personal injury claim. The law states that a plaintiff must start a claim within two years of the date of the cause of action for cases involving wrongful death, robbery, trespassing, medical malpractice and personal injuries. More specifically, in a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff is afforded two years from the date of death and not the date for the cause of the incident that led to the death.
There is also a two-year statute of limitations for a claim on property damages. Property disputes often arise from boundary or ownership challenges, though the destruction of property is also included in cases of this nature. Forcible entry, eviction actions and product liability cases also have a two-year time limit.
For issues regarding damages for mistakes or fraud, as well as stated or open accounts and debts incurred from broken oral contracts, there is a three-year limitation. Oral contracts could be a verbal agreement to a monetary loan, while an open account refers to debts involving revolving balances, like a line of credit or credit card.
There is a four-year limit when filing claims for damage on the penal clause of a bond to transfer property, settlement of partnerships accounts or trade between merchants, breach of contracts related to a sale, and failure to obey court judgments or decrees. The bond to convey property refers to contracts involving real estate.
Creditors with a written contract against a debtor have six years to file a civil claim in the state of Arizona for damages. This could involve a credit card company seeking payment from a cardholder, or it could be a business or other entity that executed a contract within the state with another party seeking payment for a debt.
Cases Involving Minors
Arizona has an exception to these standards when a case involves a minor. When a victim is younger than 18 at the time of the incident, the victim is able to file a personal injury claim up to two years past the point of his or her 18th birthday.
Statute of Limitations Arizona Criminal Claims
A criminal case involves offenses that were committed against the state or the jurisdiction where the offense took place. As opposed to civil cases between individuals, cases are brought before a criminal court when the action taken was harmful to the entire community or society as a whole.
Arizona has also set time limits for bringing criminal charges against an individual or entity. There are specific limits for specific crimes, but if a crime has not been included in a particular statute, it follows the general guidelines of the category the crime falls into.
Federal crimes follow the federal guidelines and statute of limitations, though an individual could commit a crime that can be prosecuted in either state or federal court. A prosecutor must be the party that brings the suit, and this occurs on behalf of the jurisdiction where the prosecutor is employed or due to a state appointment to litigate the case. Criminal cases are generally classified as either misdemeanors, which are more minor offenses, or felonies, which involve substantial or violent crimes against a victim.
There are standards limits established for classifications of crimes. Arizona law then breaks down the time limits according to specific crimes:
- Petty offenses have a six-month statute of limitations.
- Misdemeanors are allowed one year to file a claim.
- Felonies in classes two through six have a seven-year statute of limitations.
Specific Criminal Allowances
The following represents what can happen within each offense category. Though legislation changes can alter limitations associated with a specific crime, this is not done retroactively. In other words, changes to the law can’t make filing a case possible when the statute of limitations had already concluded. Though a prosecutor may try to charge an individual, the case against the person could get dismissed by the court.
There is no time limit for cases of violent sexual assault, Class 2 felony sex offenses or Class 2 sexual exploitation of a child. There is a seven-year limitation for child sex trafficking crimes.
Murder, Homicide and Manslaughter
Arizona doesn’t have a time limit when negligent homicide, manslaughter or murder are the charges. There is a seven-year limitation for death caused by a hit-and-run accident, and there is a two-year limitation for a death caused by a vehicle accident stemming from a moving violation.
The category of theft-related offenses also covers burglary and fraud. The state has not put a limit on prosecuting the misuse of public monies or felony acts that involve either an attempt or act of falsification of public records. Theft with a value less than $1,000 is considered a misdemeanor and has a limitation of one year. Felony theft, which is valued at over $1,000, gets an extension of seven years, as do fraudulent schemes and burglary.
Timing for the Statutes of Limitations in Arizona
Arizona has a different approach to the way the clock starts and stops on the statute of limitations. While time would typically be calculated from the moment the crime occurs, Arizona starts the clock according to the time the crime is or at least should have been discovered. This provides an advantage to prosecutors because it extends the opportunity to discover a crime. Situations like abuse or fraud are often uncovered or reported long after the action took place.
Prosecutors are also given an advantage from state-allowed suspensions on the limitation period. There are two instances where the law will adjust the period of time to give prosecutors additional time to file charges, and these address situations where the defendant may be avoiding the authorities. If the residence of the defendant isn’t known or if the defendant is absent from the state, the limitation period is put on hold. During serious offenses when the identity of the offender isn’t known, the clock is also stopped. Serious offenses include but aren’t limited to first- or second-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, child sex trafficking or dangerous crimes against children.
Double Jeopardy Concerns With the Statute of Limitations
If an individual has been charged within the allowed time frame for a crime but the indictment or complaint was dismissed, a new prosecution is allowed under statute of limitations Arizona law. The prosecution is allowed six months after the final decree of dismissal to bring charges or an indictment, even if the statute of limitations is set to elapse within the six months following the dismissal or has already elapsed at the time of the dismissal. This process might seem confusing when considering the Arizona Double Jeopardy law.
Protection With Double Jeopardy
Many assume that if you’ve already been prosecuted for a crime, you can’t face the same prosecution again. Court decisions are intended to be fair and final, and the Double Jeopardy law ensures a defendant cannot face either trial or punishment for a crime more than once. However, the law of double jeopardy only applies to the following situations:
- Facing prosecution when already serving a conviction for the crime
- Facing prosecution when already acquitted of the crime
- Facing additional punishments for the same criminal conviction
The key to double jeopardy is that the defendant must have already been acquitted or convicted. If the charges against the individual were dropped, the prosecution is able to bring another case with additional supporting evidence or additional offenses. So long as the defendant never faced a trial for a case, the prosecution is able to bring the charges for the same offense within the six-month deadline.
Facing a Statute of Limitations
Arizona may allow for exceptions in a case to extend the limitation period, but it’s wise to bring litigation as soon as it is practical or feasible to preserve a case. The physical evidence from the incident and the memory of witnesses tend to be much better just after the incident when compared to investigating several years down the road. Criminal events and charges are up to a prosecutor, but you have control over pursuing civil charges. Because the specific crime or event determines which statute applies, consulting with an attorney is the best way to face the possible elapse of a statute of limitations.
There is much you can do to support or preserve a civil case, even when you’ve sought legal counsel. Document everything that is said or done in relation to the case, and collect photographs, recordings or videos to support your claims. Don’t sabotage your claim by posting information on social media or taking justice into your own hands. Let the courts determine restitution and damages.
Securing Legal Counsel
The MDK Law Group knows the complexities of the statute of limitations Arizona plaintiffs face and have experience in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Trust our attorneys to work hard and commit to delivering the best results possible for each and every case. Schedule a free consultation today.