How Long Do You Have To File A Police Report?


If you have been involved in circumstances that require you to file a police report, it’s best to do it as soon as possible. However, the actual time that is legally mandated for you to do this will depend on the crime and the state where you currently reside.

Following the Statutes of Limitations

There are all types of crimes that can be committed against you — burglary, assault, rape or theft, just to name a few. Each one of these crimes has a different statute of limitations, which means that there is a maximum amount of time in which an offender can be charged for committing the crime.

The statute of limitations will typically be set at one year for offenses such as minor theft, vandalism or traffic accidents. In cases where a serious felony has been committed, there may be no statute of limitations. These would be crimes like murder, child abuse or rape where the seriousness of the crime is more severe.

Rule Of Thumb For Offenses

While different crimes have different types of statute of limitations, there is a rule of thumb that you can use to determine if you still have time to file a police report. For petty offenses, you typically have a year to file a report. Most misdemeanors will have a statute of limitations that is equal to two years. For felonies, you usually have five years.

When Does Statute Of Limitations Start?

Another factor that you should consider is when a crime was discovered versus the time when a crime was actually committed. The statute of limitations for various crimes can start for either scenario depending on the crime.

As an example, if you have a summer home that you infrequently visit, you may discover that it has been burglarized long after the actual crime was committed. You may be too late to file a police report since too much time has passed.

Investigation and Preparation

Regardless of the statute of limitations for a crime, it should be reported as soon as possible to allow investigators time to collect evidence and build a case. When time goes by, crime scenes get disturbed, the memory of specific details disappear and valid evidence gets more difficult to find.

Each state and city will be different in regards to the statute of limitations that is mandated for different crimes. It’s best if you look up the specific laws for your area to determine each requirement.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by using the internet and searching for “statute of limitations (your state) for (crime committed).” This should give you the information for the offense and the statute that it is listed under.