This effectively implies that the police must charge (or lay an information before a magistrate's clerk) the offender within six months of the date of the offence section 127(1) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980. There is no statutory time limit for any other offense. However, most crimes result in prosecution by the state because the law generally considers it in the public interest for such offenses to be resolved. The only exceptions are crimes involving bodily injury or violence where prosecution may be declined by the victim (see below).
The police have the power to continue an investigation for some time after they have charged or informed someone of their intention to charge them with an offense. This allows further evidence to be obtained and gives the police time to build a case against the accused.
The maximum period that the police can hold an individual under investigation without charging them is six years from the date of the alleged offense (7 years from the date of arrest). After this time has elapsed the person is considered not to have been charged with an offense.
If the police do not charge someone within this period they must release them but they can still proceed with the investigation. For example, the police might want to follow up on some leads or speak to other people who were involved in the incident. Also, if the police need more time to gather evidence they can ask the court for additional delays.
A prosecution must be brought within 6 months of the day the offence was first brought to the attention of the police, or within 3 years after the offence, whichever is shorter.
For example, if an offender drives without insurance and there is no claim made against them then they can be sure that they will not be prosecuted too far into the future. However, if the driver does cause an accident with serious injury or death then a prosecution would need to be brought quickly or else the time limit would have expired.
Insurance companies have up to one year to decide whether or not to pay out on a claim. If they do not want to pay then they will most likely deny the claim. Under the law enforcement officer cannot ask you questions about your insurance policy while you are being investigated for a crime.
In this case, it is best to call your insurance company before you get into any kind of trouble so that they do not question your account when it is presented as evidence during the investigation or trial. Your insurance company may also give you instructions on how to proceed if you come across someone in trouble. For example, if you see a car in front of you stop suddenly then you should pull over immediately and call 911. The police will want to know who is responsible for the other vehicle's actions so that they can investigate further.
How long may the police wait before charging someone? The relevant statute of limitations is the sole clear constraint on the government in terms of how long it may wait to file a charge. The statute of limitations for most offenses is six years. The statute of limitations for more serious offenses might be 10 years or more. However, in practice, charges are not filed until after the expiration of this period because prosecutors want to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial rather than based on probable cause. Thus, even if there was no statute of limitations, charges would still be filed within a reasonable time of an offense being committed.
In general, charges will be filed within a reasonable time after an offense is committed. Prosecutors generally have broad discretion in deciding what charges to bring against a defendant. Factors such as the seriousness of the crime, whether there is sufficient evidence to convict, the strength of the prosecution's case, and the amount of time that has passed since the crime was committed are all considered when determining how quickly to prosecute an case. Charges often remain pending for many years without being brought to trial.
The typical time between the commission of a crime and the filing of criminal charges varies by type of offense. For example, the average time between the date a crime was committed and the date it was reported to law enforcement officials was 7 months for homicides, 21 months for sexual assaults, and 52 months for robberies. These figures include cases where no arrest was made or charges were not filed.
Normally, a suspect can be kept without charge for a maximum of 24 hours. A senior police officer, however, can prolong this by another 12 hours. If the police need more time to interrogate suspects, they must petition to the magistrates for an extension of up to 96 hours. The magistrate can then grant or deny the request.
In practice, suspects are usually held for three days before being released or charged with crime. Police officers may prefer to hold on to suspects for a longer period if they think there is enough evidence to charge them with an offense that would justify their detention.
Suspects who cannot pay their bail may have to stay in jail until court dates can be arranged. In this case, they become "informal detainees". They can be held as long as necessary, but generally not longer than 30 days. After this time, they must be charged or released.
The police can also use other methods to question people who aren't suspects of any crime. These include standard interviews, special interviews when there has been a death or serious injury requiring police investigation into possible criminal acts, and home visits by officers who want to talk with someone about a particular incident or series of incidents.
During standard interviews, the police ask questions about what has happened, who might be responsible, and what kind of punishment should be given. They do not arrest people during these interviews.