SOL in NC is 3 years.
A statute of limitation is a law that limits the time period in which a lawsuit or other claim may be brought. Most legal actions have some time limit in which they must be filed or the person having the right to bring the claim loses out. For example, if you owe a debt, the law will specify the amount of time that the creditor has to bring a lawsuit to get a judgment for the debt. This time will vary from state to state and may vary depending on the type of debt. For example, it is common for debts arising from a written contract to have longer statutes of limitation (meaning the creditor has a longer time to bring the claim) than a debt arising from an oral contract.
SOLs are also found in criminal law, too. These laws define the time within which the government must file criminal charges against a defendant. If the government fails to file the charges in time, the defendant cannot be prosecuted for the offense. For example, federal tax offenses (e.g. tax evasion, tax fraud, etc.) must be brought by the Department of Justice within 6 years from when the offense was committed. Most other federal non-violent crimes have a five year statute of limitation.
Not all laws have a statute of limitation, though. You may have heard that murder has no SOL. Thus, the state may bring those charges against a defendant at any time. This has been illustrated by the recent prosecution for murder of persons accused of killing civil rights activists more than 40 years ago. Thus, even though four decades had passed, the state could still prosecute the case because there was no SOL to bar prosecution. There are a few civil claims that have no SOL, too. For example, there is no SOL for an unfiled federal tax return. That means the IRS can assess tax at any time for a year in which you did not file a return. That could be 50 years later, at least in theory.
In general, a SOL is defense to a claim, not an automatic bar to the claim. What that means is that in most cases, the claim can be filed and it is up to the defendant to raise the SOL as a defense. For example, suppose you owe a credit card debt to XYZ bank. Let’s say that under the law that applies to your debt, the SOL is 4 years. You stopped paying on the credit card account in 2000, thus breaching the contract and giving XYZ the right to sue you in court for a judgment for the amount you owe. But XYZ waits until this year to sue you, five years after it had the right to sue. That is past the period allowed by the SOL. XYZ is allowed to file the suit anyway. When you get served, you then respond by asserting the SOL as one of your defenses. The court would then dismiss XYZ’s lawsuit because it waited too long. If you do not raise the SOL, then XYZ could get a perfectly valid judgment against you. So, don’t assume that because a SOL has expired that you do not need to respond to a lawsuit. Too many people make that mistake only to find out later that they were wrong.
The basic idea behind a SOL is to encourage parties to pursue their claims promptly. That has several benefits. First, it helps ensure that as much evidence as possible is available to help the court decide the case. The more time that passes before a claim is brought, the more likely it is that documents will get lost or destroyed, witnesses die or their memories fade, etc. Furthermore, the defendant should not have to worry forever about whether the claim will be brought. At some point, he should be able to move on and forget about it.
The SOL begins to run with the Date of First Default. In almost all cases, the DOFD is 30 days after the last regular payment made on the debt (after which the debt was never current).
Finally, you should be aware of one other rule about SOLs and debts. In some states, if a SOL for suing on a debt expires and then the debtor confirms the obligation after that, the SOL may start anew and give the creditor the ability to sue for the judgment.