Criminal Statutes of Limitations: Standing the Test of Time
Prosecutors only have a certain amount of time to file criminal charges against a defendant, and if they wait too long, then the defendant cannot be arrested or charged for that offense. This time limit is called the statute of limitations.
Generally, the statute of limitations starts when the crime was allegedly committed, although, certain exceptions apply. For example, if a victim reported a crime 6 months after it happened, then the prosecution may have more time to file charges. You should speak to a lawyer to learn if exceptions apply to your case.
Although it would be nice, prosecutors don’t always follow the rules. If a prosecutor attempts to file criminal charges against you after the statute of limitations has passed for the particular offense, you may uphold the statute of limitations in your defense. If successful, your charges may get dismissed altogether.
With these facts in mind, we explain the statute of limitations for certain crimes in California below. If you have any questions, you know who to call!
- There is no statute of limitations for crimes involving embezzlement of public money and offenses punishable by death, imprisonment for life, or life without the possibility of parole. This includes offenses such as murder, rape, and kidnapping. Statutes of limitations also do not apply if a defendant was a minor at the time of the reported crime and the prosecutor could have petitioned for a fitness hearing under Section 707 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
- For crimes involving child pornography, the statute of limitations is 10 years. This time limit also applies if you fail to register as a sex offender in California.
- The statute of limitations is 6 years for felonies punishable by up to 8 years in prison.
- Crimes punishable by imprisonment have a 3-year statute of limitations in California.
- The statute of limitations for a felony offense involving the penetration of a minor is before the victim’s 40th birthday.
- Misdemeanor crimes have a statute of limitations of 1 year. However, certain misdemeanors have a longer statute of limitations.
- Certain crimes committed against elderly or dependent adults in California have a 5-year statute of limitations.
- All fraud crimes in California, including theft or embezzlement against elderly or dependent adults, have a statute of limitations of 4 years.
Remember, this is not a complete list of California’s statute of limitations for criminal offenses. If you got accused of a crime, let us know and we can ensure your charges were filed within the statute of limitations. If they were NOT filed within the legal time limit, our Oakland criminal defense lawyer can work to get your charges dropped. If your charges WERE filed on time, however, you can depend on us to provide the aggressive defense and unwavering advocacy your case deserves.
Reach out to us at (510) 907-6600 to schedule your free consultation!