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In 2017, there were over 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. In Louisiana in 2017, there were 24.5 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people.

There’s a drug epidemic in this country which is causing a lot of pain and suffering for the drug addict and everyone they know including friends, family, and even co-workers.

If you’re brought up on drug charges, you may have more to worry about than kicking your addiction. But is there a statute of limitations on drug charges?

And is there a state statute of limitations as well as a federal statute of limitations? And if so, what does that mean for you?

We want to help you understand the laws in Louisiana as well as federal laws and how they affect you. Keep reading to learn more.

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Drug Charges?

Getting clean from drugs is hard enough. You don’t want to worry once you’ve finally gotten your life back on track about whether or not you can still be charged.

Louisiana State Statute of Limitations

Getting caught anywhere in the state of Louisiana with an illegal substance is considered either a misdemeanor or felony. This means that getting caught with any amount of drugs will leave you with a permanent mark on your criminal record.

Louisiana also enforces a “three strikes and you’re out” rule. Even if your first two offenses were misdemeanors, the third strike is automatically a felony.

Having this offense on your criminal record makes it difficult to get a job, apply for a loan or even buy a house.

Felony Charges

Here is the statute of limitations for felony charges in Louisiana:

  • Crimes with the punishment of death or imprisonment – 0 years
  • Felony punishable by hard labor – 6 years
  • Felony not necessarily punishable by hard labor – 4 years

If the victim is under 17 years of age and it’s considered a crime against nature, there’s a 10-year statute of limitations beginning when the victim turns 18.


Here is the statute of limitations for misdemeanors in Louisiana:

  • Punishment of fine or forfeiture – 6 months
  • Fine and/or prison – 2 years

There is no statute of limitations for crimes that involve running away, avoiding detection, fleeing, fleeing outside the state, being absent in residence in the state.

Also, there’s no statute if you’re deemed mentally incapable of going to trial.

General Rule in Louisiana

La. CCRP Article 578 states that a trial won’t commence and a bail obligation isn’t enforceable in the following cases: 

  • In a capital case after three years from the date the prosecutor instituted the charges
  • In other felony cases after two years from the date the prosecutor charged you; and
  • In a misdemeanor case after one year from the date the prosecutor charged you

If you’re worried, it’s best to find out the exact date the prosecution instituted charges against you.

Limitations of Prosecution of Noncapital Offenses

La. CCRP Article 572 states that no one can be prosecuted for an offense unless the prosecution institutes charges within the following periods of time after the offense are committed.

  • Six years for felonies necessarily punishable by hard labor imprisonment
  • Four years for felonies not necessarily punishable for hard labor imprisonment
  • Two years for misdemeanors punishable by fine, imprisonment or both
  • Six months for misdemeanors punishable by fine or forfeiture

However, it’s still possible new charges may be filed.

Filing of New Charges Upon Dismissal of Prosecution

La CCRP Article 579 states that when a criminal prosecution is instituted in a timely manner and both the defendant and district attorney agree to dismiss the charges or it’s before the first witness is sworn in at trial or the indictment is dismissed by the court for any type of defect, it is possible for a new prosecution for the same offense or possibly a lesser offense based on the same facts can be brought up within the time established by the statute or within six months from the date of the dismissal, whichever is longer.

This new prosecution can’t happen if it follows the dismissal of the prosecution by the D.A. (district attorney) unless the state can show the dismissal wasn’t for the purpose of avoiding the statute of limitations for commencement of trial established.

Federal Statute of Limitations

Federal laws are much stricter than most state laws when it comes to drug charges. Louisiana may consider possessing a small number of drugs for personal use as a misdemeanor.

Meanwhile, a federal charge related to a drug crime often includes a mandatory minimum sentence that’s often severe.

Five Years Statue of Limitation

There is a federal statute of limitations on drug crimes and it’s five years. However, there are several factors that affect this statute.

And while some offenses are exempt, most drug charges aren’t prosecuted on the federal level 60 months after the alleged offense.

Much of whether there’s a statute of limitations on your drug charges depend on whether you were charged at state or federal level. It also depends on what type of charge you have against you. Distribution of drugs is typically worse than being in possession of drugs.

Drug Distribution Statute of Limitation

If you’re charged with drug distribution, the statute of limitations on the federal level is five years.

Interstate Drug Trafficking Statute of Limitation

If you have charges that involve trafficking drugs across state lines the federal statute of limitations is five years. However, there are also harsh interstate drug trafficking penalties to contend with.

You may end up receiving five years in prison along with a $10,000 fine.

Simple Possession

For a while, people who were considered to be casual users of drugs could end up with a prison sentence of no less than three years for what was recognized as simple possession.

Thankfully, in 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder advised the Department of Justice to no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences in certain possession cases.

However, this is subject to change, especially under the current administration.

Contact an Attorney

Is there a statute of limitations on drug charges? While that is a concern, your main concern is trying to see if you can’t get the charges lessened or dismissed altogether.

You also need to know your best and worst-case scenario to plan for your future. And you can’t do that without consulting with a Baton Rouge criminal attorney.

We can help you understand your charges and whether or not your charges are under a statute of limitations. Don’t wait. Contact us today to discuss your case.


Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

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Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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