How Long Does a District Attorney Have to File Charges?

Merely being suspected of committing a crime, regardless of whether a defendant is charged, is an extremely nerve-racking experience. Initially, dealing with law enforcement, which is structured to be an intimidating situation, can make even the toughest individuals cringe in fear.

In some cases, once this procedure is over, there may be a waiting period while the prosecutor reviews the evidence to determine whether to file charges. Retaining the services of an attorney experienced in criminal defense can be crucial not only to ensure that the accused has an effective defense but also to ensure that the prosecutor does not violate the applicable statute of limitations.

What is the Process for an Attorney to Charge You With a Crime?

You might worry or wonder about what happens next if you’re accused or suspected of a crime.

Specifically, many suspects wonder how long it takes to press charges on someone and how much time the DA has to file charges.

In this guide, we’ll answer the key questions you need to know, including how long the district attorney has to file charges. We’ll explore the various stages of the process for filing charges and examine how and why a prosecutor might decide not to press or proceed with criminal charges.

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Arrest and Police Report

Of course, the first stage in most criminal situations is an arrest. Not all crimes will involve an arrest – for example, receiving a parking ticket usually doesn’t lead to any kind of arrest report – but many serious crimes will result in the arrest of a suspect by the police.

After apprehending a suspect, law enforcement will proceed to file a police report.

This article describes the cause of the arrest and the details surrounding it, such as any witnesses, the nature of the crime, the location, and so on.

The police report is one of the primary resources that the prosecutor will use to determine whether to file charges, not pursue any charges, or refer the case to a Grand Jury and ask for their guidance on the next steps.

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How Long Does a District Attorney Have to File Charges?

Deciding to Prosecute

In the US justice system, simply being arrested does not automatically mean you will have charges filed against you.

It is all up to the prosecutor, or DA, and they have to take several factors into account, including:

Use of Resources –

There are limited resources available to handle cases, and it’s not feasible to file charges against everyone. The prosecutor has to decide which cases are a good use of the resources they have.

Policies –

Each prosecutor usually has a set of policies regarding which crimes they tend to file charges for and which ones they are more lenient towards.

Beliefs –

The prosecutor’s own beliefs and subjective opinions on the concepts of justice and order can also come into play. They might have strongly held beliefs about specific kinds of crime, for example.

How long does it take for a district attorney to press charges on someone?

In general, if a prosecutor decides to go ahead with criminal charges, they will make the decision within just a few days, well within the statute of limitations.

Why Would a District Attorney be Looking for Me?

Grand Jury Indictment

We’ve discussed how long it takes to press charges on someone, but in some cases, the DA might decide not to press charges right away and instead go to a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury then decides if charges should be filed, based on the evidence presented by the prosecutor.

Preliminary Hearing

In some cases, a judge can organize a preliminary hearing in which they listen to evidence from the prosecutor and make the final call about whether or not there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a full trial.

How long does the district attorney have to file charges for a preliminary hearing?

Again, it’s usually just a matter of days.

Criminal Charges

If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, you might have many other questions in addition to wanting to know how long the district attorney has to file charges. A criminal defense attorney can provide assistance, and it is recommended to contact a trusted attorney as soon as possible to receive the best level of protection and support.

Statutes of Limitation

Although criminal cases follow a typical routine, there is a specific time period within which charges can be filed against an individual. This period is outlined in a statute of limitations. Generally, statutes of limitations are laws that set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated.

In a criminal matter, when the statute of limitations has expired, the courts no longer have jurisdiction. The purpose of statutes of limitations is to protect defendants. As time passes, defendants may lose evidence or may not be able to support their defense. Additionally, as mentioned above, litigation of a long-dormant criminal charge may result in more cruelty than justice.

Crimes that are considered wobblers, meaning they can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, are subject to the period specified in the statute of limitation for the crime the prosecution chooses.

Thus, a wobbler charged as a misdemeanor is subject to the one-year statute of limitation, while one charged as a felony would be either three or six years, as appropriate.

There are two exceptions to the above periods. First, crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment or the embezzlement of public funds may be brought at any time. For example, there is no statute of limitation for homicide. Second, for certain crimes of a sexual nature (i.e., rape, sodomy, etc.), charges may be brought within one year of the establishment of the suspect’s identity through DNA testing, regardless of the date the crime was committed.

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Thus, in these instances, the statute of limitations begins after DNA testing has been completed and a suspect identified, not when the crime occurred.

How to Deal With a Warrant for Your Arrest

How to Deal With a Warrant for Your Arrest

If you suspect there’s a case against you, it’s advisable to contact an attorney. An attorney can check if there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Trying to find out yourself by going to the police or courthouse may not be a good idea, as it could lead to your arrest if there is indeed a warrant.

Once a warrant is issued, it is entered into a police database used to track warrants and check individuals’ criminal records. Depending on the severity of the case, the police may assign officers to locate the person with the warrant.

Special units are often tasked with finding individuals with warrants. They may visit their homes or workplaces and proceed to make an arrest based on the warrant. In less severe cases, the warrant may stay in the system until the person is stopped for a traffic violation and subsequently arrested.

Can your criminal defense attorney prevent charges from being filed?

Under certain circumstances, your attorney may present evidence to the prosecutor to influence the decision on whether to file charges. Sometimes, the police conduct a one-sided investigation, overlooking information that could exonerate a potential defendant. By providing this information to prosecutors, charges may be dropped or reduced.

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Difference Between A Felony Warrant And Misdemeanor Warrant

A felony warrant and a misdemeanor warrant both subject the person to potential arrest. A felony warrant is more serious as it involves felony charges, often leading to potential prison time. Police are more likely to actively pursue someone with a felony warrant, considering them more dangerous. On the other hand, a person with a misdemeanor warrant may be perceived as less of a risk.

Furthermore, in felony cases, the bail amount is usually higher than in misdemeanor cases. In many misdemeanor cases, individuals are released on their recognizance, meaning they do not have to post bail and are released based on their promise and signature to appear in court.


1) How long does it take for a District Attorney to file charges in Texas?

It typically takes about 2 years from the date of the offense.

2) How long does it take for a District Attorney to file charges in Florida?

Charges are usually filed about 185 days after an arrest, regardless of the severity of the offense or the charges.

3) What crimes have the longest statute of limitations?

Crimes with the longest statute of limitations include capital offenses, terrorism, sex offenses, and child abuse.

4) How long is the US statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations in the United States is generally 5 years, applying to most cases unless a specific code section specifies otherwise.

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