How Long Can a Case Be Pending? (How To Check Current Status)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Criminal Records | October 24, 2022

Man on the left with his hand on his chin and a question mark hovering over him wonders how long can a case be pending and how long can a felony case be pending while looking a judge behind a courthouse and a series of calendars on the right.

Individuals who were arrested for a crime but never formally charged will likely be wondering how long can a case be pending?

The truth is that how long a case can be pending will depend largely on the state and the crime that law enforcement plans to charge the individual with.

Knowing how to check the current status of any pending charges will be the best tool in deciding what to do while awaiting charges for most individuals.

So first, perform a background check on yourself to see what charges exist, then follow this comprehensive guide to learn how long can a case be pending, based on the state where you lie and the crime being investigated.

How Long Can a Felony Case Be Pending? (How Long Can a Case Be Pending?)

How long can a case be pending will depend on the state laws where the crime was allegedly committed. Individuals should first know what it means to have a case pending.

Screenshot of Illinois State Police website page for background check showing when criminal convictions are mandated to be made available to the public in Illinois.

The Illinois state police performs background checks, and anyone in the state can search their criminal record to find out if pending charges exist.

The legal process has plenty of exceptions and can be fairly complicated at times. However, when it comes to criminal charges the procedure usually goes as follows:1

  1. A crime is committed.
  2. Police arrest the suspect of the crime and the prosecutor files charges.
  3. The suspect pleads guilty or not guilty at an arraignment hearing.2
  4. If the individual pleads guilty, the sentence is given; if the individual pleads not guilty the case proceeds to trial in front of a jury.

There are plenty of steps in between but these will be the basic steps of most criminal proceedings.

When it comes to a pending case, this will occur between steps 1 and 2. During this phase, once it is clear a crime has taken place, law enforcement will investigate to understand the nature of the crime and who may have committed the crime. A case is considered pending when law enforcement has a suspect in mind but is still gathering sufficient evidence to file charges that will be enough to convict the individual of the crime. Sometimes this evidence-gathering can take weeks, months, or even years.

During this pending phase, the individual will generally not be under arrest and will be able to go about their life as they choose.

When individuals ask how long can a case can be pending, in most cases they will be referring to the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a state law that determines how long after a crime has been committed law enforcement can still charge that individual with a crime.

Each state has different laws regarding the statute of limitations and most states will have different lengths of time for different crimes. Generally, the more serious the crime the longer the prosecutor will have to charge the individual.

Illustration from Vigo County Crime Victim Assistance Program website page for criminal justice showing the process in criminal justice system in Vigo County.

US Department of Justice criminal prosecution flow chart showing the events that occur after a crime takes place. (Image Source) US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Criminal Justice System Flowchart.5

For example in most states, crimes like homicide will have no statute of limitations. This means that if someone is murdered and evidence comes to light 15 years after the murder that points to a specific suspect, the police will be able to arrest that individual if they have sufficient evidence.

On the other hand, if someone commits felony theft and evidence 15 years after the crime points to a suspect, the police will generally not be able to charge that individual with the crime and the perpetrator of the crime will essentially get away with the crime.

How Long Can a Misdemeanor Charge Be Pending?

The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is normally fairly limited and in most cases will be a few years at most. There are a few exceptions to this, for example, the state of Wyoming has no statute of limitations on any crimes.3 Meaning individuals can be arrested for any crime they committed, even if the crime was committed 20 years ago.

Each state has its own process for how long can a case be pending.

How Long Can Criminal Charges Be Pending?

When it comes to how long can a case be pending, most states have a far more limited statute of limitations on misdemeanors compared to felony charges.

In most states, felony charges can be pending for 3 years or more in most cases. More serious charges can be pending for far longer.

How Long Can a Civil Case Be Pending?

Once a civil complaint has been filed with the courts the process moves fairly quickly. In most states, the complaint must be answered in 90 days at most and as little as 30 days in some states.

Screenshot of New York Courts website page for court guide with yellow arrow pointing to civil cases statute of limitations in New York.

Most states outline the statute of limitations on the Department of Justice website, explaining how long can a case be pending, both criminal and civil cases.

Use the table below to learn about how long can a felony charge be pending based on the statute of limitations for typical felony charges in each state. Keep in mind that most states will have different statutes of limitations on certain crimes.

 

How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending?Statute of Limitations by State
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Alabama (AL)Statute of Limitations in Alabama (AL): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Alaska (AK)Statute of Limitations in Alaska (AK): 5 or 10 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Arizona (AZ)Statute of Limitations in Arizona (AZ): 7 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Arkansas (AR)Statute of Limitations in Arkansas (AR): 3 or 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in California (CA)Statute of Limitations in California (CA): 3 or 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Colorado (CO)Statute of Limitations in Colorado (CO): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Connecticut (CT)Statute of Limitations in Connecticut (CT): 5 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Delaware (DE)Statute of Limitations in Delaware (DE): 5 or 10 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Florida (FL)Statute of Limitations in Florida (FL): 3 or 5 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Georgia (GA)Statute of Limitations in Georgia (GA): 7 or 15 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Hawaii (HI)Statute of Limitations in Hawaii (HI): 3 or 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Idaho (ID)Statute of Limitations in Idaho (ID): 5 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Illinois (IL)Statute of Limitations in Illinois (IL): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Indiana (IN)Statute of Limitations in Indiana (IN): 5 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Iowa (IA)Statute of Limitations in Iowa (IA): 3 or 10 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Kansas (KS)Statute of Limitations in Kansas (KS): 5 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Kentucky (KY)Statute of Limitations in Kentucky (KY): No time limit
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Louisiana (LA)Statute of Limitations in Louisiana (LA): 4 or 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Maine (ME)Statute of Limitations in Maine (ME): 3 or 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Massachusetts (MA)Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts (MA): 6 or 10 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Maryland (MD)Statute of Limitations in Maryland (MD): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Michigan (MI)Statute of Limitations in Michigan (MI): 6 or 10 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Minnesota (MN)Statute of Limitations in Minnesota (MN): 3 or 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Mississippi (MS)Statute of Limitations in Mississippi (MS): 2 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Missouri (MO)Statute of Limitations in Missouri (MO): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Montana (MT)Statute of Limitations in Montana (MT): 5 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Nebraska (NE)Statute of Limitations in Nebraska (NE): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Nevada (NV)Statute of Limitations in Nevada (NV): 4 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in New Hampshire (NH)Statute of Limitations in New Hampshire (NH): 3 or 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in New Jersey (NJ)Statute of Limitations in New Jersey (NJ): 5 or 7 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in New Mexico (NM)Statute of Limitations in New Mexico (NM): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in New York (NY)Statute of Limitations in New York (NY): 4 or 5 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in North Carolina (NC)Statute of Limitations in North Carolina (NC): None
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in North Dakota (ND)Statute of Limitations in North Dakota (ND): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Ohio (OH)Statute of Limitations in Ohio (OH): 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Oklahoma (OK)Statute of Limitations in Oklahoma (OK): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Oregon (OR)Statute of Limitations in Oregon (OR): 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Pennsylvania (PA)Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania (PA): 2 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Rhode Island (RI)Statute of Limitations in Rhode Island (RI): 3 Years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in South Carolina (SC)Statute of Limitations in South Carolina (SC): None
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in South Dakota (SD)Statute of Limitations in South Dakota (SD): 7 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Tennessee (TN)Statute of Limitations in Tennessee (TN): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Texas (TX)Statute of Limitations in Texas (TX): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Utah (UT)Statute of Limitations in Utah (UT): 4 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Vermont (VT)Statute of Limitations in Vermont (VT): 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Virginia (VA)Statute of Limitations in Virginia (VA): 3 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Washington (WA)Statute of Limitations in Washington (WA): 10 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in West Virginia (WV)Statute of Limitations in West Virginia (WV): None
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Wisconsin (WI)Statute of Limitations in Wisconsin (WI): 6 years for most felonies
How Long Can a Felony Charge Be Pending in Wyoming (WY)Statute of Limitations in Wyoming (WY): None

How Long Can a Case Stay Open in Court?

Another common question besides “how long can a case be pending?” is how long a case can stay open once court proceedings have begun.

Screenshot of Supreme Court of the United States website page for court proceedings showing an overview of Supreme Court functions and procedures.

Most cases don’t reach the supreme court, but the ones that do are related to Constitutional legal precedent.

Once charges have been filed and the court phase of the criminal proceedings begins, the process will have certain time restraints. Technically, every individual has the right to a fair and speedy trial,4 however, this is a fairly loose term.

Generally, the judge in the case will define a timeline for the case. More complex cases will be given more time and there are numerous reasons that attorneys may ask the judge to move certain dates even further, lengthening the process significantly.

How Long Can You Be Wanted for a Crime?

Police can seek an arrest on an individual they believe committed a crime for as long as the statute of limitations allows.

This varies depending on the state and the crime but crimes like homicide and rape usually have no statute of limitations.

How Long Can You Wait To Press Charges for Domestic Violence?

How long an individual has to press charges is also limited by the statute of limitations. In the case of domestic violence charges, this is usually at least 3 years and often longer in many states.

How To Get Charges Dropped Before Court Date

Once charges have been filed, many individuals will be confused as to what comes next and may not be aware of all their options. Although not entirely common, attempting to get charges dropped as soon as possible is often the best course of action and what most attorneys will first attempt. This can prevent a lengthy legal process by stopping the proceedings before they even get started.

How to get charges dropped before court date is somewhat difficult and will depend on the situation. Attorneys can ask a judge or prosecutor to drop charges for multiple reasons. Most often this will be a lack of evidence that will make it difficult to obtain a conviction or procedural issues that make the arrest or investigation unlawful which will cause a judge to throw out the entire case.

Are There Signs Your Case Will Be Dismissed?

Generally, law enforcement will try and keep their investigation secret to avoid individuals from trying to get a case dropped.

However, any procedural issues such as unlawful arrests and searches or law enforcement arresting someone without charging them with anything specific are pretty good indicators that law enforcement does not have a strong case and it may be possible to get the case dropped.

How Long Does It Take for a Case To Be Dropped?

Most cases will be dropped at the arraignment hearing if they make it that far. Based on the reason that a case could be dropped the speed at which the charges are dropped varies.

Screenshot of Gulfport City website page for court sessions with yellow arrow pointing to what happens in an arraignment in criminal proceedings.

Court Sessions information can be located on most county websites.

Something obvious like a procedural issue or clear evidence that proves the accused is innocent will cause the case to be dropped very quickly. Less specific reasons for a case to be dropped will need to be argued in front of a judge.

How Do You Convince a Prosecutor To Drop Charges?

Charges can be dropped for lots of different reasons. When it comes to convincing the prosecutor to drop charges, this will usually involve evidence that exonerates the individual or possibly cooperation with law enforcement in some cases.

The exact process will depend on the case and the approach the attorney sees as the most likely path to success.

How Long Does It Take for a Prosecutor To Review a Case?

How long it takes for a prosecutor to review a case will also impact how long the process takes. The more serious the crime, the higher it will be on the priority list for the prosecutor.

There is also the issue of complex cases where evidence is still being gathered. However, most cases will be reviewed within a few weeks.

What Happens if Charges Are Dropped Before Court?

Getting charges dropped before ever appearing in court is usually the best-case scenario. When this happens the individual is free to go and is no longer accused of a crime.

Can a Disposed Case Be Reopened?

Many people will be under the impression that a dropped case means the individual is officially innocent. However, this is not true and many cases can be reopened as more evidence becomes available.

Does a Disposed Case Stay on Your Record?

Disposed cases will appear on most criminal records. If a case was officially disposed of, that means that charges were officially filed at one point and evidence of these charges will exist with the courts.

How Long Does It Take for a Felony Case To Be Dismissed?

Felony cases will usually be dismissed fairly quickly if they are dismissed at all. Most judges will be reluctant to drop felony charges so any information that could lead to dismissal will generally be fairly significant causing the case to be quickly dropped.

Related Reading: Do Dismissed Charges Show Up on a Background Check? (Do 2 Things)

How To Find Out if There Are Pending Charges Against Me for Free

The best way to respond is to be prepared, therefore everyone wants to know: How to find out if there are pending charges against me for free? Use the search bar at the top of this page to run a background check on yourself. This free public records search will show any relevant court records involving charges that have been filed.

Do Pending Charges Show Up on a Background Check? (How Long Can a Case Be Pending?)

People are curious to know what really shows up on their records and one question that come to mind is: do pending charges show up on a background check? Pending charges will usually show up on a background check in the form of arrest records. Although this may not show the reason for the arrest, the evidence that the individual has been arrested will appear on most background checks.

Related Reading: How to Do a Background Check on Yourself (Method for Each State)

How Do I Know if I Have Been Charged With a Crime?

If they feel they may have been involved in a crime, people might search for “How do I know if I have been charged with a crime?” as a preventive action.

The most reliable way to know if you have been charged with a crime is to run a background check on yourself. However, the court will notify individuals if charges have been filed against them, or they will be arrested and the arresting officer will explain the charges.

Screenshot of Montana Department of Justice website page for criminal records with yellow arrow pointing to criminal history public record search online portal.

Montana offers a criminal history online public record search platform, along with many other states, which make it simple to request your criminal record to check for pending charges.

Getting arrested is an extremely stressful event, especially for individuals unfamiliar with the way the legal system works. Understanding the charges against you and knowing how long can a case be pending will both ease anxieties and help individuals understand their options.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Long Can a Case Be Pending

How Long Can a Civil Court Case Stay Open?

Most civil court cases will be open for 90 days at most and as little as 30 days.

Will a Pending Ticket Show Up on a Background Check?

Will a pending ticket show up on a background check? is a question that many people ask when they want to know what a background check reveals. Pending traffic tickets will only appear on a driving record check, not on a criminal record check.

Do Pending Court Cases Show Up on a Background Check?

People may inquire “Do pending court cases show up on a background check?” because they are intrigued by what appears on their record. Yes, arrest records and criminal charges will appear on a background check.

Can You Be Charged for a Crime Years Later?

Yes, as long as the crime is still within the statute of limitations.

How Long Can a Felony Case Stay Open?

How long felony cases can stay open depends on the state and the specific felony. The more serious the crime, the longer the case can stay open in most cases.

How Long Can a Misdemeanor Case Stay Open?

The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is usually less than 3 years but can be longer in some states.

How Long Can a Case Be Pending Misdemeanor?

On average, the statute of limitations for misdemeanors is about 18 months.

How Long Does it Take for Charges to Be Dropped?

Charges can be dropped at any time during criminal proceedings. Based on this reason, they can be dropped almost instantly in some cases.

What Does a Pending Case Status Mean?

A pending case status means that police are still investigating the crime to come up with formal charges. Essentially, the individual is strongly suspected of a crime but police have not formally charged them yet.


References

1U.S. Department of Justice. (2021, April 26). Criminal Procedures. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from <https://www.justice.gov/usao-mn/criminal-procedures>

2U.S. Department of Justice. (2021, April 26). Initial Hearing / Arraignment. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from <https://www.justice.gov/usao/justice-101/initial-hearing>

3State of Wyoming Legislature. (2022, June 29). Title 1 – Code of Civil Procedure. State of Wyoming Legislature. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from <https://wyoleg.gov/statutes/compress/title01.pdf>

4Cornell Law School. (2022). Sixth Amendment | U.S. Constitution | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from <https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/sixth_amendment>

5US Department of Justice. (2022). Criminal Justice System Flowchart. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved October 12, 2022, from <https://bjs.ojp.gov/media/image/45506>

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