Practical Law Glossary Item w-024-4557 (Approx. 2 pages)
Statute of Limitations
A law that extinguishes a party's right to bring a claim once a specified time period elapses (compare to statute of repose). State and federal statutes set different periods of time depending on the type of claim or crime at issue.
In civil law, the limitations period refers to the time during which a party may lawfully assert a claim before the party's right to assert the claim expires. The limitations period typically begins to run once a claim accrues, or when the final element of a claim occurs.
In criminal law, the limitations period refers to the time in which the government may charge a defendant with a criminal offense, either by indictment or criminal information. The applicable statute of limitations for most federal crimes is five years (18 U.S.C. § 3282).