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What Crimes Have No Statute of Limitations in California?

In March 2022, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department arrested a man on suspicion of felony aggravated sexual assault. The man is being held on a $1 million bail in connection with a sexual assault on a child three decades ago.

California law allows charges to be filed in crimes involving a child victim up until the victim’s 40th birthday. Aggravated sexual assault of a child has no statute of limitations.

Most crimes have a much shorter statute of limitations, meaning the time in which charges must be filed after the commission or discovery of a crime. Yet others have no limitations at all.

If you are arrested on suspicion of any crime, you need to contact experienced defense counsel as soon as possible. Our attorneys at Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC have more than 100 years of combined experience in providing clients with strategic criminal defense.

Crimes that can be charged no matter how much time passes include the following:

Any crime punishable by death or life in prison also has no statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations for Other Felonies and Misdemeanors

The timeframe in which charges can be filed for a particular crime is generally based on the potential maximum punishment. Violent crimes have longer statutes of limitations because they carry more severe penalties.

The timeframes for most crimes are as follows:

  • Felony Offenses: 6 years if punishable by 8 or more years in prison
  • Felony Offenses: 3 years if punishable by less than 8 years in prison
  • Misdemeanor Offenses: 1 year

Some crimes fall outside that basic framework. Examples include the following:

  • Sex Offenses Requiring Sex Offender Registration: 10 years
  • Elder Abuse or Crimes Against Dependent Adults: 5 years
  • Misconduct by a Public Official: 4 years

If a defendant is out of state when or after the offense is committed, the limitation of time can be extended up to three additional years.

Some civil statutes of limitations are longer than criminal time limits. Even if you cannot be charged in criminal court, a civil lawsuit might still be filed against you.

Rule of Discovery

If a California crime falls under a prosecutorial cutoff, the clock does not necessarily begin when the crime is committed. Time begins accruing when an offense is discovered, which can be any time after the act itself. State and federal law forbid prosecutors from charging someone with a crime beyond the specified time limit.

Purpose Behind Statutes of Limitations

Memories and evidence fade as time passes. At some point, criminally charging someone may not be fair to all parties if too much time has passed. Convictions should be based on eyewitness testimony and evidence that hasn’t deteriorated over time. As more time elapses, the defendant is more likely to lose evidence that proves their innocence.

The intent in limitations is to find a balance between the competing interests of protecting the defendant from wrongful charges while maintaining public safety and finding justice for the victim. The time limitation also encourages efficient prosecutorial action.

Criminal Defendants Deserve Quality Legal Representation

The prosecutorial careers of our three founding attorneys provide unique insight to effectively defend against criminal charges. We craft an individual case-specific strategy with no detail overlooked. Our collaborative approach means our clients benefit from an entire team, not just a single attorney.

When you need smart and aggressive legal representation, contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC. Reach out online or call (949) 251-0330.