Statute of limitations

The statute of limitations depends on the maximum sentence provided by law for the criminal offence in question. The right to bring charges expires if charges are not brought within

1) twenty years, if the maximum sentence provided for the offence is imprisonment for over eight years,

2) ten years, if the maximum sentence is imprisonment for over two years and at most eight years,

3) five years, if the maximum sentence is imprisonment for over one year and at most two years,

4) two years, if the maximum sentence is imprisonment for at most one year, or a fine.

For example, assault is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to two years. Thus, the statute of limitations period is five years.

No statute of limitations applies, however, to offences where the most severe penalty is imprisonment for life. An example of such an offence is murder. The minimum statute of limitations for offences committed while in public office is five years and for certain environmental offences it is ten years. For the most serious sex offences against children, the right to bring charges becomes time-barred when the victim turns 28 years of age at the earliest, and under special circumstances even later.

Time limits relating to the statute of limitations are normally counted from the commission of the criminal act. Application of the statute of limitations ceases only when a court summons in the case has been served on the defendant.

In a few exceptional cases, the time limit may be extended by one year based on a court decision.

After the right to bring charges has expired, the matter in question can no longer be investigated and the persons involved must be considered not guilty.

Published 21.9.2017