The criminal statute of limitations for California varies depending on the type of crime, and some crimes, like murder, have no limits. Understanding how these statutes affect you is crucial to defending yourself effectively. California’s rules are complicated and detailed, so it is best to have experienced legal help to ensure you are not charged when too much time has passed.
When you or a loved one is facing criminal prosecution by the state of California, you need the help of a qualified lawyer who will work tirelessly for you. The Simmrin Law Group believes everyone deserves the best legal representation available. We will listen to your story and examine all your options for the best outcome.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that describes the maximum window of time during which a state can charge someone with an offense. California has particular rules regarding these statutes.
When the state fails to bring prosection charges before the time limit has passed, the defendant and their lawyer can file a motion to have the case dismissed. Depending on the crime, statutes of limitation can be as short as one year. For crimes such as murder, there is no statute of limitations, and the state can bring a charge at any time.
Statutes of limitation exist for most crimes to ensure that defendants are given their constitutional right to a speedy trial. Evidence and witness statements may disappear or change over long periods of time. Limiting the timeframe for charging a person prevents unfair prosecution.
For a free legal consultation, call (310) 928-9347
When Does the Statute of Limitations Begin?
In most cases, the statute of limitations begins when the crime is committed. However, California also uses the discovery rule, which states that a statute begins when the offense is discovered. The rule is valuable to prosecutors and victims of crimes that are difficult to uncover, such as murder.
It also applies to crimes where a victim does not report the offense out of fear or because they are a minor. In these situations, the prosecution may be given more time to file the charge.
So-called “wobbler” charges are crimes that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the circumstances. The statute of limitations can therefore vary significantly from one to six years. Whether a charge is filed as a felony or misdemeanor can be influenced by the skill of your criminal lawyer and the evidence gathered by the prosecutor.
Are There Basic Rules that Govern Statute of Limitations?
Yes, there are some basic rules that govern when a statute of limitation begins and ends. However, because there can be extenuating circumstances, the same criminal action could be used by the prosecutor as the foundation for more than one charge. This complicates things for the defendant because there could be overlapping statutes that are in effect for a single case.
In general, the basic guidelines for statutes of limitations in California are:
- One year for misdemeanors
- Three years for most felonies
- Six years for felonies that carry prison sentences of 8 years or more
- No limit for crimes that carry life imprisonment or a death sentence
For especially heinous crimes, the state may bring charges at any time, no matter how long it has been since the crime occurred. These criminal offenses include first-degree murder, rape with violence or force, aggravated sexual assault of a minor, kidnapping, embezzlement of public monies, and treason.
Click to contact our Criminal Defense Lawyers today
What Is a Tolled Statute of Limitations?
Tolling is applied to a statute of limitations when there are special circumstances that may require longer to investigate and present a case for the prosecution. This action is generally used for situations where the plaintiff:
- Was legally a minor when the crime occurred
- Is determined to be mentally incompetent
- Is serving a prison sentence from a previous felony conviction
Tolling may also be invoked when a defendant has filed a bankruptcy case, which pauses any other lawsuits against them. It may also go into effect if the defendant is not physically in the jurisdiction of the case and must be brought back to the state or country for the trial.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form now
How Can a Criminal Lawyer Help Me?
A criminal lawyer can use their knowledge and expertise in the law to help you defend yourself to the best of your ability. They can also explain how any applicable statutes of limitation will affect your case.
Facing one or more criminal charges in California can be scary and confusing, especially if you feel you are innocent or have no previous criminal record. Most people do not know how to gather evidence for their defense. They also do not have access to sources of information that could be used in their favor, which a competent criminal lawyer will research for their clients.
It is never a good idea to try to defend yourself, especially when the case involves criminal charges. The law is simply too complicated for you to effectively present proof of your innocence or even ask for the case to be dismissed. A qualified criminal lawyer can litigate and file motions with the court to help you as much as possible.
How Can Civil Statutes of Limitation Affect a Criminal Case?
Criminal statutes of limitation are put in place to ensure that someone cannot be charged by the state after a certain period of time. This protects a defendant’s right to a speedy trial.
However, civil statutes of limitation are often longer, meaning a victim or their family has more time to pursue a civil trial against the defendant. This means you could avoid a criminal charge if the statute of limitations runs out but could still face a civil lawsuit that is filed in time.
Why Should I Hire a Criminal Lawyer in California?
California takes criminal charges very seriously, and if you are facing them, so should you. Your freedom could be at stake, and hiring a skilled criminal lawyer is the best way to minimize the punishment you could face. Your lawyer can work to decrease fines and jail time where possible and help you understand just what is at stake for you.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we fight for every client, no matter the circumstances of the case. We will build your defense and explain the complicated California legal system to you. For a risk-free, confidential consultation on how we can help, use our online form to schedule an appointment today.