New York, NY asked in Criminal Law for New Hampshire

Q: Could you help me interpret this NH statute about tolling statutes of limitations?


VI. The period of limitations does not run:

(a) During any time when the accused is continuously absent from the state or has no reasonably ascertained place of abode or work within this state; or

(b) During any time when a prosecution is pending against the accused in this state based on the same conduct.

(a) appears to state that tolling doesn't occur unless one becomes accused ("accused is continuously..." vs. "accused was continuously...) and then attempts to hide from authorities, as opposed to it being tolled prior to accusations being made, which would essentially make the statute of limitations infinite? This is scary for someone who moved out without motive of evading or running from anything. As in, is there a difference here between someone simply having left the state at some point by natural course (e.g. finishing college, taking a new job elsewhere when none were available in-state) vs. willfully leaving to hide from authorities?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Leonard D. Harden
Leonard D. Harden
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Lebanon, NH
  • Licensed in New Hampshire

A: The starting point for determining whether the statute of limitations bars prosecution is RSA 625:8. The general rule is that the State has six years to prosecute a felony, one year to prosecute a misdemeanor, and three months to prosecute a violation, RSA 625:8, I (a)-(d), but the statute contains numerous exceptions. Murder, for instance, may be prosecuted at any time. Sex offenses where the victim was under eighteen at the time of the alleged offense may be prosecuted until the alleged victim turns 40. RSA 625:8, III (d). Note that if the victim was over eighteen at the time of the assault, the general six year limitation applies. Amendments eliminated the limit for crimes involving falsification in official matters related to murder, and expanded the limits for violation-level motor vehicle offenses resulting in death or serious bodily injury (six months) and for human trafficking (20 years/victim turns 38). RSA 625:8, III (g-i).

The statute of limitations begins to run when all the elements of the offense have occurred. RSA 625:8, IV. If the crime is a “continuing offense,” the statute does not begin to run until the defendant’s complicity in the offense terminates. State v. Amerigas Propane, 146 N.H. 267, 269 (2001). This provision may be applicable in pattern sexual assault prosecutions. State v. Fortier, 146 N.H. 784, 790 (2001) (defining pattern of sexual assault as continuing offense).

The State generally satisfies the statute of limitations if it files a charge or issues a warrant between the time when the limitations period began, and the time when RSA 625:8 dictates it is supposed to end. RSA 625:8, V; see State v. Maxfield, 167 N.H. 677 (2015) (holding that the fact police obtained arrest warrant during limitations period tolled the statute, despite the fact that the State neither executed the warrant nor filed a complaint during the limitations period). The limitation period is tolled when the accused is continuously absent from the state, or is the subject of a related prosecution for which the State has satisfied the statute of limitations; i.e., those periods of time do not count against the State in calculating the applicable limitations period. RSA 625:8, VI. See also Nadler, 151 N.H. at 246-47 (holding that statute tolled regardless of defendant’s motive for leaving state, i.e., State need not prove defendant actively fled prosecution).

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