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Criminal Statute of Limitations in California

Posted by Dan Kann | Nov 10, 2022 | 0 Comments

It is natural to have concerns about what might happen if you or a loved one is under police investigation. A nagging worry is how long the prosecutors might continue to track you and keep your life under the lens of the long arm of the law. The statute of limitations in civil cases applies to private plaintiffs whereas in criminal cases, it applies to the time available to the state or federal prosecutor to file criminal charges.

How Long Can You be Held in Custody?

The police launch an investigation as soon as they come to believe a crime has occurred. This can last for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years. Once the police have a suspect, they consult with the prosecutor, since only the prosecutor can charge an individual with a crime.

In California, the prosecutor gets 48 hours to charge someone who is being held in custody. The police are required to release you from custody if the charges are not filed within that time. However, the prosecutor can always bring charges against you months, weeks, or years later if they believe that they can prove that you committed the crime.

The length of time available to the prosecutor to charge you with a crime depends on the statute of limitations for that particular offense.

Statute of Limitations for Different Crimes in California

The duration of time available to the prosecutor to bring charges will depend on the classification of crime – felony or misdemeanor. Typically, felonies have three years and misdemeanor crimes have a one-year statute of limitations.

Deviations to this general rule are:

  • No statute of limitations for fraud of public money or any other crime that carries life in prison without the possibility of parole, life in prison, or death penalty
  • No statute of limitations for forcible rape
  • No statute of limitations for forceful or violent rape of a spouse
  • No statute of limitations for murder
  • No statute of limitations for gang rape
  • No statute of limitations for treason
  • No statute of limitations for aggravated kidnapping
  • 6-year statute of limitations for felonies that can be sentenced to up to 8 years or more behind bars
  • 10-year statute of limitations for not registering as a sex offender with an existing conviction and making child pornography
  • 5-year statute of limitations for elder abuse
  • 4-year statute of limitations for other forms of fraud
  • 2-year statute of limitations for medical professionals that engaged in sexual crimes with their patients

Statute of Limitations – Beginning and Expiration

The clock for statute of limitations starts running when the police discover that they have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. More specifically, under California's Discovery Rule, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until an offense has been, or could reasonably have been discovered. If charges are not filed within the statute of limitations, the charge or charges must be dismissed. In some cases, even when charges are filed within the statute of limitations, a skilled criminal defense attorney can successfully argue that the case should be dismissed none the less, based on Due Precess grounds. This applies in cases in which the prosecutor took so long to file charges that it has become more difficult or impossible for the defendant's attorneys to obtain evidence and testimony that would have been favorable to their client's case, even when the charges have technically been filed within the statue of limitations. 

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

The smart move is to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys here at the Kann California Law Group. It is vital that you connect with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney if you are being investigated. We can have your charges dismissed if the statute of limitations has run out. We invite you to get in touch with us today to discuss your legal options through a free, no obligation and confidential consultation. Speak to our legal team at 888-744-7730 or reach out to us by using our online contact form.

About the Author

Dan Kann

Daniel E. Kann has devoted his entire legal career exclusively to defending individuals facing criminal prosecution in Southern California. Dan fights criminal cases throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.


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