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How Long Do Police Have to Charge You?

Six months.

Let me qualify that.

They have 6 months to apply for the summons in your case.

Six months to apply for the summons, not six months to serve the summons.

There’s a big difference.

And bear in mind: police don’t forget.

I’ll come back to that later.

BUT SIX MONTHS is the timeline.

But there’s exceptions here too.

If the offence is very serious (robbery, serious assault sexual offence) there is no six-month time limit.

In other words there is no Statute of Limitations for these kinds of cases.

But for almost all road traffic cases, the State have 6 months to issue a summons.

Within certain limits the State can serve a summons on you at any time after the date of the arrest.

Again, let me be specific.

An arrest could take place on 1 January and as long as the police apply for the summons before 31 May (i.e. 6 months later) they’re covered.

But that could mean that you may not receive the summons until 12 months after you were arrested.

Sometimes even longer.

The State are generally not bound by any time-limit in serving a summons on you.


Again, let me qualify that.

EVERYBODY HAS A RIGHT to have their case dealt with efficiently.

The legal term for this is “expeditiously”.

Expeditiously means quickly, without undue delay.

But if the delay is too long or too unreasonable that might be regarded as unfair.

If the State can give no reasonable explanation as to why it has taken them so long to prosecute you that may be a defence to the prosecution.

If the court agreed that the delay was unreasonable, unjustifiable or unfair, the case might be struck out.


Not will, might.

A delay in terms of time alone will usually not work.

In other words, just because the State have taken much longer to prosecute you than is usual in cases like yours, it doesn’t mean that the court will strike the case out.