How Long Do You Have to File a Police Report?

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How Long Do You Have to File a Police Report?

Following a serious accident, you may be overwhelmed by not only the incident but also the many subsequent matters at hand, such as filing a police report, tending to any injuries or medical needs, and even speaking to a personal injury lawyer. With so many things to consider, you may wonder how long you have to file a police report and if it’s necessary to file a report right away. 

The attorneys at Morgan & Morgan are familiar with multiple aspects of filing personal injury claims, including assisting you with filing a police report or getting copies of your police report to bring as evidence in your personal injury claim. 

For more information, contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free case evaluation.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • How Long Do You Have to File a Police Report?

    If you have been a victim of a crime or have witnessed a crime, you may be curious how long you have to file a police report. It is best to consult with the authorities as soon as possible, while the details of the entire incident are still fresh in your mind. However, there are also laws in place under the statute of limitations that tell you further details about how long you have to report a crime. If you wait too long to report a crime or a personal injury lawsuit, for example, you may fall outside of the statute of limitations. This means that protections afforded to you under the law when someone else has wronged you may not be available to you, and you may not be able to recover compensation. The statute of limitations covers multiple things, including how long you have to submit a police report following a crime. 

    It is not always a cut and dry situation to determine how long you have to file a police report. If you have witnessed a crime, for example, you may be naturally nervous about whether or not someone may react against you for making a police report, or you may be concerned that you don't remember enough details for this to be helpful to the police. 

    Furthermore, the crime might have been committed by someone you know or someone in your family, and you may be concerned about protecting them. The more time that goes on, however, the harder it is for police to investigate this crime and other witnesses may forget what happened or the evidence in the case could be damaged. 

    The statute of limitations establishes the maximum amount of time for criminal charges to be filed before they can no longer be investigated by legal authorities. The statute of limitations will vary by crime, as well as from state to state. Bear in mind that there may be separate statutes of limitations that apply for personal injury lawsuits. 

    For smaller petty offenses like vandalism, minor theft, or traffic accidents, these usually come with a one-year statute, meaning that someone who witnessed this situation or was a victim of it has no more than one year to file a police report for the crime. With misdemeanor crimes, that may be extended to a two-year statute, whereas most felonies carry a five-year statute. Felony crimes are typically associated with a broad range of different types of activities, but more serious felony crimes like murder, child abuse, or rape could have no statute of limitations.

  • Do I Have to Report a Traffic Accident?

    While you may not need to initiate a formal police report, certain states do require people involved in traffic accidents to report this via a police report within a few days. This is because valid evidence associated with that accident may disappear in that time, and the police officers may have little or nothing to go on to pursue charges against someone or to help you with your civil lawsuit if you don't make them aware of it. 

    Furthermore, you may need to contact the police if someone was seriously injured or if there was significant property damage due to an accident. Bear in mind that as it relates to crimes, the majority of statute of limitations begin at the time the crime was committed. This may be different from personal injury lawsuits, when you do not realize the extent of your injuries until later. 

    For example, the clock on a personal injury claim for something you did not realize at the scene of the incident may only start when you discover the problem. This can also apply to situations such as medical malpractice, when you did not realize the situation that affected you until much later. It can be a good idea to file a police report as soon as possible to protect your legal rights and to ensure that you have provided the police with as much information as possible immediately after the incident. This gives investigators enough time to collect all possible evidence. If too much time goes by, the memory of specific details fades away, valid evidence becomes more difficult to find and crime scenes or personal injury accident scenes get disturbed. 

    Remember that in addition to state laws, city laws or ordinances may apply with regard to the statute of limitations. Doing research in your specific area can help you to determine what applies to your case. It's always better to file a police report quickly because it shows that you took this situation seriously. Even if at the scene of an accident you are not yet clear on whether you have sustained serious injuries or property damage, filing a police report can serve as an indication that you believe there may be more to the story.

  • When Should I Definitely File a Police Report Following an Accident?

    There are some cases in which you should definitely file a police report immediately after an accident. If you believe that someone was under the influence of alcohol, was speeding excessively outside the legal limit, was using drugs, was falling asleep at the wheel, was distracted at the time, or any other situation involving illegal activity, you need to contact the police and request that they come to the scene as soon as possible. The statute of limitations for federal crimes, United States Code 18 section 3282 outlines the statute of limitations for federal criminal cases. This is typically five years, unless it is otherwise stated in the law. 

    There are some specific crimes that carry longer statutes of limitations, which are as follows:

    • Nonviolent terrorism offenses: 8 years.
    • Immigration offenses: 10 years.
    • Artwork theft: 20 years.
    • Certain crimes against financial institutions: 10 years.
    • Arson: 10 years.
    • Sexual abuse of a child or child abuse: 10 years or the life of the victim, whichever of the two is longer.

    There are also some federal crimes that do not have a statute of limitation. This includes any crime that is punishable by the death penalty, like murder. In some situations, the judicial system may also elect to extend the statute of limitations, such as if someone needs DNA evidence in order to charge a person with a federal crime, they may temporarily waive the statute of limitations until the DNA test results are in.

  • What if I Have Damages in a Lawsuit?

    A police report should always be filed because it is an important component of the evidence in your personal injury claim, but it is certainly not the only piece of evidence that can tell others what's happened in the lawsuit. If you have damages from a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney may use the police report and any other materials you've gathered showing how the accident happened in order to make a case for you in court. Most people who are seriously injured in vehicle accidents will have substantial medical bills that far exceed with their own insurance covers, and this is a leading reason to retain a personal injury lawyer to help you with the process of damage recovery. 

  • Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me After a Vehicle Accident?

    There are many benefits to contacting a qualified and knowledgeable attorney to assist you with filing your lawsuit, such as gathering evidence such as the police report. If you are overwhelmed with this process and are currently dealing with the fallout of an accident caused by someone else's behavior, you may need a personal injury attorney like those at Morgan & Morgan. 

    Many victims cannot remember or were not conscious to recognize the details of an accident, and missing out on this important evidence could block you from getting the support that you need. Being able to show that someone else was legally responsible for the injuries you sustained could help put you on a path to recovery and getting the compensation you need to move forward with your life. 

    Do not hesitate to contact Morgan & Morgan to learn more about how long you have to file a police report and to get help with your case.

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