How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending? Guide to Felony Charges

A portrait of Background Check Records founder, Jayson Baxter.Written by Jayson Baxter

Criminal Records | May 17, 2023

A male judge wearing a black robe is holding a document while looking at a woman that's wearing a blue shirt, black pants and shoes who is curious how long a felony charge can be pending as she holds a magnifying glass with both hands that's pointing at a calendar.

A felony charge can cause a great deal of damage to a person’s job prospects, housing and licensure, and understanding how long a felony charge can be pending can help individuals’ understand the general timeframe and process that goes along with felony prosecutions.

This free guide on felony charges gives individuals an idea of how long a felony can remain pending in each state until it is prosecuted, dismissed or expunged, and how long a felony charge can stay on a record after formally being filed with the courts.

How Long a Felony Charge Can Be Pending in Every State

Because felony offenses can involve a lengthy investigation, grand jury deliberations and review by the district attorney’s office, the time from commission of the offense to formal charges can be weeks, months or sometimes years.

A screenshot from the Code of Alabama website showing section 15-3-1.

Source: The Code of Alabama1

How long a felony may be pending is also dependent upon the laws in the state where the crime was committed.2

Each state has its own laws, rules, regulations or policies regarding how quickly a felony must be formally charged before it is dismissed. The table below outlines how long can a felony be pending in each state:

How Long a Felony Can Remain Pending in Every State* Statute Brief Explanation
Alabama 15-3-1
  • 5 years
Alaska 12.10.010
  • 5 years
Arizona 13-107
  • 7 years
Arkansas 5-1-109
  • Arson 10 years
  • Class A, Y 6 years
  • Class B, C, D 3 years
  • Insurance Fraud 3 years
  • Other fraud 1 year
  • Felony by public servant 5-10 years
California Penal Code 801
  • 3 years
Colorado 16-5-401
  • 3 years
Connecticut 54-193
  • 5 years
Delaware Title 11
  • 5 years (increased to 10 if there is DNA evidence presented)
Florida Chapter 775
  • 3-4 years
Georgia 17-3-1, -2, -2.1, 2.2, -3 (2022)
  • Punishable by death or life in prison 7 years
  • Crimes with child victims 7 years
  • Other felonies 4 years
  • Forcible rape 15 years
  • Crimes against elderly 15 years
Hawaii 707-1
  • 3 to 6 years
Idaho 19-402
  • 5 years
Illinois 720 ICLS 5/3-5
  • 3 years
Indiana 35-41-4-2
  • For crimes involving children, charges must be formally filed before the victim reaches the age of 31
  • Level 3-6 felonies 1 year
  • Level 3 rape 5 years
  • Most other felonies 2-5 years
Iowa 802.1-802.10
  • 3 to 10 years
Kansas 21-5107
  • 5 to 10 years
Kentucky 500.050
  • No limitation for any felony
Louisiana 14:42
  • 60 days if the person has been arrested, or 120 days if the charge can result in life without parole or death sentence
  • 6 years for felonies where there was no arrest made
Maine Title 17-1, Section 8
  • A-C felonies 6 years
  • A-C felonies involving gross sexual misconduct or unlawful sexual conduct 20 years
Maryland 5-106
  • No limitation for any felony
Massachusetts Chapter 277, Section 63
  • 6 to 15 years
Michigan 767.24
  • 6 to 10 years
Minnesota 628.26
  • 3 to 9 years
Mississippi 99-1-5
  • 2 years
Missouri 556.036
  • 3 years
Montana 45-1.205
  • 10 years
Nebraska 29-110
  • 3 to 6 years
New Hampshire 625:8
  • 1 to 20 years
New Jersey 2C:1-6
  • 5 years
New Mexico 30-1-8 to 30-1-9.2
  • 2nd degree felony 6 years
  • 3rd and 4th degree felony 5 years
New York Chapter 11-A,PtT 1, Ttl C, Art 30
  • 5 years
North Carolina Chapter 15, Section 1
  • No limitations on any felony
North Dakota 29-04
  • 3 to 21 years
Ohio 2901.13
  • 6 years
Oklahoma 22-152
  • 3 to 12 years
Oregon 131.125
  • 2 years
Pennsylvania Chapter 55, Title 42
  • 2 years
Rhode Island Chapter 41
  • 10 years
South Carolina Title 17
  • No limitations on any felony
South Dakota Title 22
  • 7 years
Tennessee 40-2-101
  • Class A 15 years
  • Class B 8 years
  • Class C and D 4 years
  • Class E 2 years
Texas Title 1, Chapter 12
  • 5 to 10 years
Utah Title 76, Chapter 1, Part 3
  • 4 to 8 years
Vermont Title 13, Chapter 151
  • 3 to 40 years
Virginia 19.2-8
  • No limitations on any felony
Washington 9A.04.080
  • 3 to 20 years
West Virginia Chapter 61
  • No limitations on any felony
Wisconsin 939.74
  • 6 years
Wyoming Title 6
  • No limitations on any felony

*Certain felonies do not have a statute of limitations and can be pending indefinitely. This table represents those felonies that must be filed within the listed time frame or they will be dismissed automatically.

A screenshot from the Texas statute showing the code of criminal procedure articles.

Source: The Texas Statutes3

The limitations listed above are for the majority of felony crimes in the state but here are some felonies that have no statute of limitations and which means they may be pending indefinitely due to the nature of the crimes.

A screenshot from the Virginia law showing the limitation of prosecution section.

Source: The Virginia Law4

Types of Felonies Without a Statute of Limitations

There are some felonies that states consider so horrific that there is no limitation on how long these matters can be pending before they are either formally charged or dismissed.5

A screenshot from the Louisiana State legislature law website.

Source: The Louisiana Laws – Louisiana State Legislature6

The table below shows the matters in each state that have no limitations regarding how long can a felony be pending:

State Felonies With No Statute of Limitations
  • Capital offenses
  • Violent offenses
  • Arson
  • Forgery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Drug trafficking
  • Sex offenses involving minors
  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Murder-related offenses
  • Felony sex abuse of minor
  • Sex trafficking (victim under 20 years old)
  • Child pornography
  • Human trafficking
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Felonies committed against minors
  • Homicide
  • Conspiracy to commit homicide
  • Terrorism
  • Violent sexual assault
  • Specific abuses of public funds/trust
  • Unlawful use of biological or radioactive products
  • Murder of a child
  • Rape with a positive DNA match
  • Rape of a child
  • Sexual assault
  • Other sex crimes against children
  • Capital murder
  • Murder in the first or second degree
  • Murder
  • Other capital offenses
  • Embezzlement of public funds
  • Violent sex offenses
  • Felonies with a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Treason
  • Forgery
  • Sex offenses against a child
  • Murder
  • Sex offenses involving minors
  • Forgery
  • Treason
  • Aggravated incest
  • Sexual assault reported within 10 years w/DNA evidence
  • Vehicular homicide after leaving the scene of a fatal accident
  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Class A felonies
  • Sex offenses against minors
  • Capital offenses with a penalty of death or life in prison
  • Murder
  • 1st or 2nd degree murder
  • 1st or 2nd degree attempted murder
  • Sex trafficking
  • 1st and 2nd degree sex offenses
  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Sex offenses against child
  • Terrorism
  • 1st and 2nd degree murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Solicitation of murder
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Reckless homicide
  • Treason
  • Forgery
  • Arson
  • Child pornography
  • Major sex offenses
  • Murder
  • Class A felonies
  • Sex offenses against children as long as the victim has not reached the age of 31
  • Murder
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Aggravated sodomy
  • Terrorism
  • Any felony
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Any crime punishable by death or life in prison
  • Murder
  • 1st or 2nd degree homicide
  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Gross sexual assault
  • Unlawful sexual contact
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Any felony
  • Murder
  • Sex offenses against a minor
  • Murder
  • Conspiracy to commit murder
  • Solicitation of murder
  • 1st degree sex offenses
  • Any felony with a maximum punishment of life in prison
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Trafficking minors
  • Sex trafficking
  • Criminal sexual misconduct
  • Sexual extortion
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Aggravated assault
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Domestic violence
  • Burglary
  • Forgery
  • Robbery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement
  • Financial fraud
  • Human trafficking of a child
  • Abuse of a child
  • Sex crime against a child
  • Murder
  • 1st degree rape
  • Sodomy
  • Unlawful sexual offenses
  • Class A offense
  • Deliberate or negligent homicide
  • Treason
  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Forgery
  • 1st and 2nd degree sexual assault
  • 3rd degree sexual assault against a child
  • Incest
  • Child pornography crimes
  • Trafficking of a minor
  • Murder
  • Terrorism
New Hampshire
  • Murder
  • Assisting a murder
  • Concealing a murder
  • Hindering a murder investigation
New Jersey
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Terrorism
  • Sexual assault
New Mexico
  • Capital felonies
  • 1st degree felonies
New York
  • Class A felonies
  • Murder
  • 1st degree rape
  • Sexual misconduct against a child
  • Aggravated sexual abuse
North Carolina
  • Any felony
North Dakota
  • Murder
  • Murder
  • Murder
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Felonies connected with a murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Aggravated assault when subject knows victim is a law enforcement officer
Rhode Island
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Sexual assault
  • Child molestation
  • Bigamy
  • Arson
  • Counterfeiting
  • Treason
  • Burglary
  • Forgery
  • Manufacture, sell, distribute, possess controlled substances
South Carolina
  • Any felony
South Dakota
  • Murder
  • Class A, B, and C felonies
  • Murder
  • Crimes punishable by death or life in prison
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Underage sex crimes
  • Sexual assault with no DNA testing or DNA match
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Major sex crimes
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Sex crimes against children
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual exploitation of a minor
  • Human trafficking
  • Aggravated human trafficking
  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Arson resulting in death
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Sodomy
  • Sexual penetration with a foreign object
  • Aggravated sexual battery
  • Infected sexual battery
  • Attempt at any of the above offenses
  • Murder
  • Arson resulting in death
  • Homicide
  • Rape of a minor under 16 years old
  • Molestation of a minor under 16 years old
West Virginia
  • Any felony
  • Murder
  • Attempted 1st degree homicide
  • 1st degree homicide
  • 2nd degree intentional homicide
  • Attempted 1st degree sexual assault
  • 1st degree sexual assault
  • Any felony

Because of the particularly violent nature of the cases in the table above, law enforcement and prosecutors have much more leeway when it comes to presenting charges to the court.

How Long Does the District Attorney or Prosecutor Have To File Charges?

Once a case has been presented to the district attorney by the investigator or law enforcement agency that responded to the initial report of a criminal violation, they must present the case to the grand jury within the prescribed statute of limitation outlined in the laws in that state.

Per the United States Constitution, no felony charges can be brought to court without a grand jury.7 As outlined in the tables in the previous sections, the prosecutor may have just a few years to seek formal charges (known as a true bill of indictment) through the grand jury process.

It is ultimately up to the grand jury whether or not a case will be placed on a docket for trial, and sometimes the DA (District Attorney) will seek a secret indictment.

How do you know if you have a secret indictment? Usually, someone doesn’t know they have a secret indictment against them until they are taken into custody by law enforcement. Which brings us to, can you be charged with a crime without knowing it?

As with secret indictments, a person may know they are suspected of committing a felony, but they are not aware grand jury proceedings have started against them until a true bill is issued and the person is taken into custody.

A screenshot from th eConstitution Annotated website showing the constitution of the United States sixth amendment.

Source: The Constitution Annotated8

Hiring an attorney early in the process can help a person know how the case is progressing through the court system.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Court Date for a Felony?

Another guarantee provided defendants by the United States Constitution is the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.9 Because of this Constitutional right, most cases are set for trial within 30 to 60 days on average.

While this is the initial trial date, felony cases can take months to years to reach final disposition due to motions to continue the matter and other delays such as during the sentencing phase.

A screenshot from the California Courts website showing the how criminal cases work page's the arraignment section.

Source: The California Courts10

The time between indictment and court also includes the official arraignment which is where the judge formally reads the charges to the defendant at the first appearance, and the defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.

Arraignments can happen as quickly as 24 hours after the grand jury hands down a true bill of indictment with an average time of 48 to 72 hours.11

Do Felonies Expire After Being Charged? (How Long Can a Felony Charge Stay On Your Record?)

When considering how long does a felony stay on your record or if it expires, in a number of states, a felony arrest or charge can stay on a person’s record indefinitely unless it has been expunged by the state.

In other states, when an arrest or charge doesn’t move forward to a trial, or when the matter is dismissed by the district attorney, the matter may automatically be removed from the person’s record, or the defendant has the right to petition for an expungement of the non-conviction.

Do pending charges show up on a background check or are there reliefs in place for people who are accused of a felony and waiting to see if charges will go forward? Pending felonies can show up on a variety of background checks and these can have a negative impact on a person’s ability to obtain employment.

The following states have automatic relief for felonies that do not move forward within the statute of limitations in that state making sure these charges do not negatively affect the subject of the search:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia12

Do dropped charges show up on a background check for felonies? As with dismissed charges, dropped felonies can still show up on background checks except in states that strictly prohibit release of non-conviction records to the public.

Overall, a felony case can take a long time from the commission of the crime to the final disposition in the matter.

Unless a felony charge is expunged or erased from the record, it will stay on it forever; however, Fair Credit Reporting Act rules for criminal non-convictions limit disclosure on a background check to seven years.13 Running a background check is how to find out if criminal charges have been filed in a felony case, but not all background checks may show pending felonies.

Do Dismissed Felonies Show Up On a Background Check?

Even when dismissed, the felony charge itself can still appear on a background screening; however, the record will show the dismissal, not a conviction. Additionally, it depends on the type of background check that is run.

On a level 1 background checks, an employer will be looking primarily at convictions, but pending felonies may also appear and create a barrier to work. This screening may or may not show pending charges. A level 2 background check is more likely to reveal pending felony charges since this includes fingerprinting which is typically done at the time of a felony arrest. A level 2 check can show pending felonies nationwide.

For level 3 background checks, which also includes fingerprinting and a deeper dive into a person’s background, they are even more likely to reveal pending felonies; therefore, having an attorney working toward dismissal is in the person’s best interest.

Lastly, a level 4 background check can take several months to complete, meaning a felony can go from pending to trial or dismissal before the completion of the screening. For example, in Texas, the prosecution must file felony charges 90 days following an arrest.

If the charges aren’t filed, the matter will be dismissed and will show up on the level 4 screening as a dropped or dismissed charge.

Can a Felony Be Dropped or Dismissed? Can a Pending Felony Be Dropped?

If charges are dismissed do you have a criminal record? While felony charges are considered the most serious offenses, there are strict rules of evidence that must be followed, and district attorneys are particularly careful when it comes to the prosecution of these crimes.

Therefore, when the DA does not think a case can be won, he or she can drop or dismiss the matter.

A screenshot from the Idaho Law Legislature title 19 criminal procedure section.

Source: The Idaho Legislature14

There is a distinction between dropped and dismissed, so it’s important to know this as a factor in knowing how long a felony charge can be pending since it impacts that part of the case directly.

A district attorney can drop a charge before seeking a grand jury indictment, and this occurs for a number of reasons which will be outlined later in the article. Dropped charges can be revisited at any time up to the amount of time allowed in the statute of limitations.

Dismissed charges usually occur after an indictment, and may or may not impact if the case can be reinstated. For example, when a felony is dismissed without prejudice, the district attorney has the option to bring the matter back to court at a later date.

When a case is dismissed with prejudice, that felony charge cannot be brought back to court for any reason; however, new charges arising from the incident can be presented to the grand jury providing the statute of limitations has not expired.15

Signs Your Case Will Be Dismissed or Dropped

District attorneys are elected officials, and since they rely on their record during campaign times, a DA weighs each case carefully to look for things that may result in an acquittal. Dropped or dismissed charges are how a DA controls the amount of trials in the jurisdiction as well as maintaining a high win-loss record. Do dismissed charges show up on a background check? Yes, they can and they do, but dismissed charges do not carry the same weight as convictions.

There are a number of signs a case may be dismissed or dropped, including the following:

  • Insufficient proof the defendant is guilty: the first test will be whether there is sufficient evidence to get an indictment. If not, the DA will drop the matter and kick it back to law enforcement for further investigation. If the matter cannot even pass a grand jury, it will not pass the threshold of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt established for criminal cases.
  • Witnesses aren’t available: if there are no witnesses, or witnesses will not come forward or are unwilling to testify, this weakens the DA’s case and can lead to dismissal or dropped charges.
  • Evidence cannot be admitted: if evidence is gathered illegally or through unethical or dishonest means, it can severely taint the DA’s case leading dropped charges or a dismissal.
  • Evidence goes missing: if evidence isn’t properly logged, goes missing, gets stolen or is accidentally (or intentionally) destroyed, the DA’s case is weakened and can be dismissed or dropped.
  • Probable cause isn’t established: as stated earlier, if probable cause by the grand jury cannot be established, the trial will not occur until it can or the matter will be dropped or dismissed indefinitely.
  • The criminal complaint is inaccurate or incomplete: an inaccurate or incomplete criminal complaint gives the defense attorney an opening to establish reasonable doubt in the mind of a judge or jury. The district attorney can drop or dismiss matters where the complaint has errors.
  • Intent cannot be established: for crimes that require intent to commit them, when this cannot be established, the DA can drop or dismiss the charges.16

A screenshot from the NYPD criminal justice process showing the arraignment and calendar part section.

Source: NYC.gov17

A good defense attorney knows how to get charges dropped before a court date for felony charges, by working immediately to find holes in the district attorney’s case, or petitioning the court to dismiss matters when a great deal of time has passed since arrest and indictment.

As mentioned earlier, felony crimes are those that are considered especially horrible, and working a felony case from start to finish can take months or years depending on the nature of the crime. Since indictments can also be done in secret, someone might ask themselves: how do I know if I have been charged with a crime? It depends on where the matter is at in the felony process or if a secret indictment has been sought by the DA.

The table below shows how long a felony charge can be pending, and what happens from start to finish in a felony case:

Phase in a Felony Case Brief Explanation/Timeline
Investigation Sometimes the most time consuming part of the felony process, an investigation can take anywhere from weeks to years depending on the nature of the crime and the workload of the investigator working the case.18
Charging Once the investigation has been presented to the District Attorney, they have until the statute of limitations expires to bring the matter to a grand jury. Sometimes a DA will have their own internal investigators conduct interviews with witnesses and review evidence before seeking an indictment. Again, this phase can take months.
Initial hearing/first appearance/arraignment This part of the hearing process takes place anywhere from 24 to 72 hours following the true bill of indictment by the grand jury.
Discovery Discovery is the process by which the defense is given a copy of any evidence or witness statements the DA has in a case. The defense files the motion for discovery, and can have up to 30 days from the date of the arraignment; however, most file these immediately following arraignment. The district attorney can have up to 30 to 45 days to respond. This phase can take a couple of months or more. Some states adopt a 10 day rule for discovery meaning that all evidence must be shared with the defense no later than 10 days before the trial starts.19
Plea-bargaining The defense attorney will try to strike a deal in most cases since the DA rarely brings a case to trial that is not likely to result in a guilty verdict. This phase can take several weeks.
Preliminary hearings These hearings are held early in the court phase and can occur within a few months of the indictment being drafted. Preliminary hearings usually take less than a day to be heard.20
Pre-trial motions One of the tools used by the defense is the pre-trial motions that can delay a case. Many of these will be motions to dismiss based on weak evidence, or other factors listed in the previous section. It is during this phase that the majority of dismissals occur. Pre-trial motions are also heard in less than a day in most cases.
Trial Trials typically occur months, and sometimes years, after a true bill of indictment has been handed down. At this phase, all the pre-trial motions have been settled, discovery has been completed, and plea-bargaining has fallen through. Some states require a trial begin within 1 to 2 months of the indictment; however, pretrial motions, preliminary hearings and motions to continue often delay trials for months.21
Post-trial motions After the hearing, the defense can file post-trial motions for dismissal. These are usually heard within weeks following the trial, and at times can be heard on the same date as the verdict.
Sentencing When the matter results in a guilty plea or verdict, the sentencing phase is set sometimes immediately after the trial, but can be scheduled for a few weeks following the trial.
Appeal Appeals can take weeks, months or years to be fully resolved, depending on the nature of the case. For example, murder convictions (especially those that result in death penalty sentences) are guaranteed one automatic appeal to make sure everything in the case was done correctly. The defense will want to exhaust all appeals when a person is sentenced to prison or death for a felony conviction.

Overall, felony cases from start to finish can take years to fully resolve. The statute of limitations starts when the crime is committed or discovered and sometimes certain phases of the process can bog down the process leading to a possible dismissal of the matter.


A screenshot from the Missouri attorney general court process showing the appeals process section.

Source: The Missouri Attorney General22

How long can a felony charge be pending depends on a number of factors such as the type of felony, the state, and their statute of limitations. So when someone is facing a felony charge, this free guide provides details on the timeframe in which felony charges can be pending, and what the rules are in each state regarding felony statutes of limitations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Before Indictment Takes Place?

Most felony cases can be presented to a grand jury at any time up to the expiration of the statute of limitations; however, in some cases they must be presented within 30 to 60 days such as when the individual has been arrested for a felony.

How Long Can a Felony Case Be Pending for an Assault Charge?

A number of factors go into play for assault cases. If it was a sexual assault, there may be no statue of limitations.

Felony assaults statutes of limitation are also determined by the state where the crime occurred. Some states require charges within a few years, others have no statute of limitation.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations is the amount of time between the commission of a crime (or discovery of a criminal offense occurring) and when charges must be filed. If charges are not filed within the prescribed statute of limitations, the defendant cannot be sanctioned for that offense.


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15 Difference between dismissed with or without prejudice. (n.d.). Illinois Legal Aid Online. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from <>

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19 What Does Discovery Actually Mean In A Criminal Case? (n.d.). Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Attorney. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from <>

20 Bergman, P. (n.d.). The Difference Between a Preliminary Hearing and a Trial. Nolo. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from <>

21 Speedy Trial Act. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved February 25, 2023, from <>

22 “The Court Process.” Missouri Attorney General. Accessed 29 April 2023. <>

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