Limitation of actions is the period of time in which a person has to file a valid lawsuit or claim. “The period varies greatly depending on what type of case is involved, whether the suit is against the government, whether it is by a minor, and most importantly, in what state or federal jurisdiction the right to sue arose.” Statutes of limitations, which date back to early Roman law, are a fundamental part of U.S. law. Statutes of limitation apply to both civil and criminal actions. Limitation law is intended to prevent fraudulent and stale claims from arising after all factual evidence has been lost or have become obscure through the passage of time or the defective memory, death, or disappearance of witnesses.
The statute of limitations is a defense that is ordinarily asserted by the defendant to defeat an action brought against him/her after the appropriate time has elapsed. If the defendant fails to plead the defense of limitation, the defendant is deemed to have waived the defense. Statutes of limitations are enacted by the legislature and a court cannot extend the time period in its discretion unless the statute provides such authority. In civil lawsuits, a statute must afford a reasonable period in which an action can be brought. Most of the states have a statute of limitations for all crimes except murder.