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Massachusetts Statute of Limitations

A stylized image of Massachussets with the words statute of limitations written on it

Statute of Limitations MA- Summary

Massachusetts’ statute of limitations establishes a deadline before which civil cases – such as lawsuits – must be filed in the state. In relation to criminal charges, it also prevents prosecutors from charging an individual with a crime after a specified period of time has passed. The statutes of limitations for different civil actions and crimes can vary from state to state, so read on for more information about how they apply in Massachusetts. 

Massachusetts Civil Statute of Limitations

Massachusetts civil statute of limitations sets deadlines under which lawsuits and other civil actions must be filed in the state. Depending on the type of case or procedure, most civil claims have a three-year deadline in Massachusetts, including personal injury, libel, slander, fraud, injury to personal property, trespass, and collection of rents. The date or discovery of an incident is usually when time starts counting down.

Be aware that if you fail to file your civil claim before the established deadline, the opposing party can use the statute of limitations in their defense and file a motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the time allotted to file it has already passed. Any legal claim will be lost forever once your case is dismissed. 

A summary of civil statutes of limitations in Massachusetts:

Injury to Person3 yrs. Ch. 260 §4
Libel/Slander3 yrs. Ch. 260 §4
Fraud3 yrs. Ch. 260 §2A
Injury to Personal Property3 yrs. Ch. 260 §4
Professional Malpractice3 yrs., max. 7 yrs. (personal injury) Ch. 260 §4
Trespass3 yrs. Ch. 260 §2A
Collection of Rents3 yrs. Ch. 260 §2A
ContractsWritten: 20 yrs. if under seal; 6 yrs. others Ch. 260 §§1, 2; Oral: 6 yrs. Ch. 260 §2
Collection of Debt on Account6 yrs. Ch. 260 §2
Judgments6 yrs. Ch. 260 §2

State laws related to filing lawsuits can change often. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a Massachusetts attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

Massachusetts Criminal Statute of Limitations

Massachusetts’ criminal statute of limitations sets time limits on the filing of criminal charges in the state. As it is in most states, Massachusetts does not place a deadline on bringing charges for the crime of murder, which state law says prosecutors can charge someone with no matter how much time has passed. Most other felonies carry a six-year statute of limitations in Massachusetts, and misdemeanors must also be prosecuted within six years.

A summary of criminal statutes of limitations in Massachusetts:

Code SectionMA Gen L ch 277 § 63
FeloniesMurder: none; robbery, intent to rob or murder with dangerous weapon: 10 yrs; rape, assault with intent to rape, rape/abuse/assault of child: 15 yrs; others: 6 yrs
Misdemeanors6 yrs.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not RunWhile the suspect resides outside the state.
For sex crimes involving minors, the clock does not start counting down until the child turns 16 or the crime is reported, whichever is first.

State laws are always subject to change. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a Massachusetts attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

Massachusetts Recording Laws