Statute of limitations

1 a  : a statute establishing a period of time from the accrual of a cause of action (as upon the occurrence or discovery of an injury) within which a right of action must be exercised
compare laches statute of repose
b  : a criminal statute establishing the period of time within which an offense can be punished after its commission
2  : a period of time established by a statute of limitations for commencing an action or prosecution
3  : an affirmative defense that the statute of limitations has expired

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Based on Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©2001.
Merriam-Webster, Incorporated
Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.