Pennsylvania regulates all vehicles operating on public roads within the state. When a motorist violates a traffic code and is issued a citation, a statute of limitations begins to run that requires the state to file charges within a certain amount of time. The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is based upon the traffic incident and the presence of any additional factors that extend the applicable time.
General Statute of Limitation
Pursuant to Section 5553 of the Pennsylvania Statutes, traffic code violations (which are generally located in Title 75) must be commenced with 30 days after the commission of the offense, or discovery of the identity of the offender if not immediately known.
Commencement of Action
Commencement of action is when a complaint or summons is filed. In the case of traffic tickets, the issuance of the summary citation by the officer to the driver constitutes the commencement of action for statute of limitation purposes. The statute of limitations applies (in practical terms) when an officer does not write a ticket at the scene of the incident but takes a few days to complete the ticket or conduct an investigation. In these cases, the citation must be completed and filed within 30 days as required by Section 5553.
Section 5553(c)(1) provides exceptions to the 30-day limitation. If proceedings are reasonably started against person A, and subsequently it is discovered person B was the offender, proceedings may be brought against person B within 30 days of discovery. If the traffic incident involves an accident where an individual was hurt or killed, the action may be commenced with 365 days of the offense, or the discovery of the offender, whichever is later.
Maximum Statute of Limitation
Although Pennsylvania law provides for exceptions as described in Section 5553(c)(1), the state places a maximum statute of limitations on a traffic offense of three years from commission of the offense under Section 5553(e).