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Is There a Statute of Limitations to File Criminal Charges?

In California, the prosecutor generally has a set time period to file formal criminal charges against an individual. For some offenses, charges must be filed within a maximum number of years after the crime is discovered; for others, the prosecution can begin at any time.

Ensuring Fairness for the Defendant

The statute of limitations is in place to ensure fairness for the defendant. The more time that passes between the alleged offense and filing charges, the more likely evidence could be lost or damaged, making it difficult for the defendant to challenge the prosecutor’s case.

The Discovery Rule

For certain state crimes, the statute of limitations does not begin on the date the offense was committed. Rather, the discovery rule states that the countdown begins when the crime was discovered.

No Limit for Certain Offenses

Under California Penal Code §799, the prosecutor can file charges against a person at any time for offenses that can result in life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole. This also applies to crimes involving embezzlement of public money.

Statute of Limitations for Felonies

Under California Penal Code §801, offenses that can be charged as felonies generally have a statute of limitations of 3 years. However, if the punishment for a conviction includes imprisonment for 8 or more years, the prosecution must bring charges within 6 years after the offense was committed. For other types of felonies, charges must be filed within 10 years after the offense occurred or was discovered, whichever date is later.

Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors

The statute of limitations for misdemeanors depends on the type of crime committed. For the most part, the maximum period is 1 year. However, if the offense was committed against a child under 14 years of age, the statute of limitations increases to 3 years. The period for bringing charges for sexual exploitation offenses committed by a physician or therapist is 2 years.

Speak with Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC – Your Initial Consultation Is Free

California has complex laws regarding the statute of limitations, and there are some exceptions and other time limits for specific offenses. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience, and we have extensive knowledge of the laws that govern your rights. When you work with us, we will carefully examine your case to ensure you receive the fair trial you are entitled to.

To discuss your case, call us at (949) 251-0330 or contact us online.