The Statute of Limitations (SOL) is the time period in which a legal claim can be brought. SOL applies to both criminal and civil actions. The purpose behind SOL is to prevent fraudulent or stale (old) claims from being brought into court after too much time has passed. If a great deal of time has passed then evidence may have been lost or become confused from the passage of time, loss of memory, death or disappearance of witnesses,
SOLs are enacted by the legislature. The statute can either extend or reduce the time limits, subject to certain restrictions. A judge or court of law does not have the authority to extend the time period unless the statute provides such authority. With respect to civil lawsuits, a statute must afford a reasonable period in which an action can be brought. A statute of limitations is unconstitutional if it immediately curtails an existing remedy or provides so little time that it deprives an individual of a reasonable opportunity to start a lawsuit.
SOL is a defense that is generally raised by the defendant to defeat an action brought against him after the appropriate time has elapsed. Basically, the defendant is saying you have waited too long to bring this case against me. The defendant has to assert this defense before answering the plaintiff’s complaint. If the defendant fails to assert a SOL defense then he is regarded as having waived the defense and will not be permitted to use it later.
SOL is different for different legal claims. For example in Kentucky the SOL is only 1 year from the date of the injury where criminal charges for murder do not have a SOL. SOL is why it is important to seek legal representation as soon as a legal matter develops to make sure that the SOL has not run out. An attorney can advise you on what the SOL is for your legal issue and ensure you are not barred from bringing your claim.
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