In the State of Florida, the statute of limitations establishes a maximum time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed. There is also a statute of limitations for criminal law, which establishes a maximum time period in which a case may be prosecuted. The statute of limitations varies depending upon the nature of the civil or criminal action.
Florida statute 95.11 details the time limits for civil actions within the state. For example, according to Florida statute 95.11, a legal or equitable action based on most written contracts must be brought within five years. An action founded on negligence, or an action related to the determination of paternity, must be brought within four years.
Florida Statute 775.15 details the statute of limitations for criminal actions in the state. There is no statute of limitations for capital felonies, life felonies, or felonies resulting in death. However, there is a four-year statute of limitations for cases arising out of first degree felonies; a three-year statute of limitations for other felonies; a two-year statute of limitations for first degree misdemeanors; and a one year statute of limitations for second degree misdemeanors or non-criminal violations.
If more than the allowable time has passed, the civil claim or criminal prosecution would be time barred. The defendant could ask to have the case dismissed. The statute of limitations exists to prevent people from being forever worried about the possibility of civil or criminal action, and from being forced to defend themselves once witness memory may have faded and evidence may have been lost.