Earlier this month, Alabama A&M Vice President, Kevin Rolle, pled guilty to possession of a forged instrument in the 3rd degree, which is a class A misdemeanor in Alabama. Mr. Rolle was originally charged with two felonies: Theft of Property 1st Degree, and Possession of Forged Instrument 2nd degree. However, the State of Alabama agreed to dismiss the theft charge and amend the felony forgery charge to a misdemeanor forgery charge. Mr. Rolle is scheduled for sentencing in May and faces up to a year in jail, but the judge is able to suspend that year and place Mr. Rolle on probation for up to 2 years.
Certainly, this is a shocking and scandalous case because it involves public official corruption and deception, but this case also highlights some important aspects of law that apply to all cases: Statute of Limitations. Below, I have explained some important issues regarding limitations on how long the prosecution has to file charges, using facts from Mr. Rolle’s case as an example.
Statute of Limitations – General Rules for Felonies & Misdemeanors
Unless there is an exception, all felonies must be prosecuted within five (5) years from the date of the offense. Code of Alabama §15-3-1. There are, however, numerous exceptions, including some offenses that have no statute of limitations at all. Code of Alabama §15-3-5 There are no limitations for prosecution on the following crimes:
(1) Any capital offense;
(2) Any felony involving the use, attempted use, or threat of, violence to a person;
(3) Any felony involving serious physical injury or death of a person;
(4) Any sex offense involving a victim under 16 years of age, regardless of whether it involves force or serious physical injury or death;
(5) Any felony involving arson of any type;
(6) Any felony involving forgery of any type;
(7) Any felony involving counterfeiting; and
(8) Any felony involving drug trafficking.
An additional exception applicable in this case states that the conversion (theft) of state or county revenue is a crime that must be prosecuted within six (6) years of the commission of the offense, according to Code of Alabama §15-3-3.
Misdemeanors, regardless of the type of offense or the nature of the offense, must be prosecuted within 12 months of the commission of the crime.
Application of Statute of Limitations Rules to Mr. Kevin Rolle’s case
In Mr. Rolle’s case, the prosecution of this matter started on October 16, 2015 by way of a grand jury indictment. This means that without any exceptions, the State could prosecute any theft or forgery committed on or after October 16, 2010 (5 years). According to the news report, Mr. Rolle had been employed as the VP since 2009, which would appear to prevent the State from prosecuting any offenses committed from his hiring date until October 16, 2010.
But, in this case, there are multiple exceptions that apply. First, the exception involving theft of state or county revenue would apply to increase the statute of limitations from 5 years to 6 years for his Theft of Property 1st Degree charge. Additionally, there is no statute of limitations for felonies involving forgery according to Code of Alabama §15-3-5(6), which would lift any time restriction for prosecution of his Possession of Forged Instrument 2nd degree offense. These exceptions would allow the State to charge and prosecute Mr. Rolle for any offense he had committed involving theft of state or county funds, and forgery for the entire length of his tenure with Alabama A&M.
Mr. Rolle resigned from his position as Vice President and agreed with State prosecutors for them to amend their felony forged instrument charge to a misdemeanor forged instrument charge, and that he would plea guilty to that amended misdemeanor. Further, the State would dismiss their charge of Theft of Property 1st degree in exchange for his guilty plea. Recall that all misdemeanors (even those with forgery) have a 12-month time limit to prosecute, and that this case was indicted 6 years after he began working with A&M.
Logically, it would appear that the statute of limitations would prevent a misdemeanor conviction, but Mr. Rolle and the State specifically agreed to waive and forgo any arguments or defenses based on the statute of limitations that may apply to the amended charge. Without that waiver, a court would not be able to accept Mr. Rolle’s guilty plea and could not enter an order of conviction.
Knowledge of the statute of limitations is a fundamental part of any type of representation, especially for criminal defense. If you have questions about any offense you have been charged with, do not hesitate to call one of our experienced lawyers today.