Just as other states do, New York imposes limitations on how long in the past certain crimes can be prosecuted. These "statutes of limitations" apply specific time periods to crimes based on the severity of the offense. While some crimes, such as murder, have no statute of limitations, traffic offenses have varying statutes of limitations, depending on the type of offense.
Generally, non-criminal moving violations in New York are considered one kind of traffic violations. Typical moving violations, such as failure to yield, speeding violations, and other non-criminal offenses are heard before the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Under state law, these are generally considered petty offenses. The state statute of limitations requires that actions for petty offenses must be brought before a judge or tribunal within one year from the date of offense. (New York Code § 30.10 2 (d))
Some traffic violations are more serious than petty offenses. Crimes such as driving under the influence of alcohol or driving with a revoked or suspended license are generally prosecuted as misdemeanors. Unlike petty offenses, these crimes are brought before New York state courts, not the DMV. In general, misdemeanor traffic offenses must be brought within two years from the date of commission. (New York Code § 30.10 2 (c))
In general, felony offenses must be prosecuted within five years after their commission. Most traffic offenses do not qualify as felonies, unless specific circumstances apply. For example, one of the more commonly encountered felony traffic violations is causing bodily injury to someone while driving under the influence of alcohol. Although most DUIs in New York are considered traffic infractions, DUIs that result in injuries can be charged as felonies, and as such, the five-year statute of limitations applies to them. (New York Code § 30.10 2 (b) and § 1193. 1(c))
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