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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

What Crimes Have No Statute of Limitations in California? | Penal Code with Goss Law

Under the criminal justice system, prosecutors have a limitations period that they need to follow in order to pursue charges against the defendant. There may not be a time frame in some criminal cases involving serious offenses.


Just as how these time frames allow prosecutors to bring criminal charges against an individual or entity months or years after the actual date of the crime, it also protects the defendants by barring the government from pursuing action after the limitations period.


Sacramento criminal lawyers at Goss Law have extensive experience in helping protect the rights of defendants in Sacramento, California. They can review the case, create a strong defense, and fight to avoid any convictions.



What Is the Statute of Limitations?

What Is the Statute of Limitations?


The statute of limitations is part of the civil and criminal justice system. It is the law that sets the maximum time in which an individual can pursue criminal charges or civil action against another party. The attorneys at Goss Law can help with questions like How long after an assault can you press charges in California?


A car accident victim, for example, has two years from the date of their injuries to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the negligent driver.


Under the California criminal statutes of limitations, as a general rule, the government has one year for misdemeanor crimes and three years for felonies to pursue criminal charges in a case.


However, it is important to note that the time limit may vary depending on the nature and severity of the crimes committed. There are also exemptions and tolling rules that place a pause on the state's statute of limitations.


If prosecutors bring criminal charges against an individual after the passing of the time lime under the statute of limitations, the defendant may be able to get the case dismissed.


Why Is the Statute of Limitations Important?


One of the major reasons the statute of limitations is essential is that it protects the defendants' rights. After a certain period of time, the evidence at the crime scene that could prove the defendant's innocence could disappear.


Witnesses, for example, may not have an accurate recollection of the incident that happened, which could jeopardize the defendant's chances of defending against the criminal charges.


The main goal of having a statute of limitations is to ensure fairness for the defendants. However, there are some crimes that do not have a statute of limitations. These typically involve serious criminal offenses.


California Criminal Statute of Limitations Law


Under California law, there are several penal codes that discuss the details of the statute of limitations for different crimes. This information is available under the California Penal Codes 799-802.


One-year Statute of Limitations


Under the California Penal Code 802, any criminal offense (misdemeanor) that isn't punishable by death or life imprisonment has a one-year statute of limitations. Some of these include the following:

  • Driving under the influence (Vehicle Code 23152)

  • A hit-and-run misdemeanor (Vehicle Code 20002)

  • Petty theft (Penal Code 484)

Sexual crimes that involve misconduct by a professional, such as a therapist or a physician, has a two-year statute of limitations.


Three-year Statute of Limitations


Under the California Penal Code 801, the statute of limitations for any criminal offense (felonies) that is punishable by imprisonment is three years. These include assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code 245), grand theft (Penal Code 487), and burglary (Penal Code 459).


Six-year Statute of Limitations


Under the California Penal Code 800, the statute of limitations for any crime that is punishable by imprisonment (eight years or more) in state prison is six years. Some examples of such crimes include the following:

  • First-degree robbery (Penal Code 211)

  • Arson (Penal Code 451)

Although most criminal offenses have between one and six years of statute of limitations, there are some crimes, such as child pornography and failure to register as a sex offender after conviction, where the government has up to 10 years to bring charges in a case.


There are exceptions to the rules mentioned above. Wobbler crimes, for example, could be a misdemeanor or a felony under California law, and the prosecutor can file criminal charges depending on the facts of the case.


What Crimes Have No Statute of Limitations in California?


Under the California Penal Code 799, there are certain crimes that are not governed by the criminal statute of limitations, and these include offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment in state prison.

Some examples of criminal offenses under this penal code include the following:

  • Aggravated sexual assault of a child

  • First-degree murder

  • Treason

  • Public money embezzlement

  • Capital crimes, such as manslaughter and other violent crimes


When Does the Statute of Limitations Time Begin?


In California, the criminal justice system uses the discovery rule to determine when the time limit for bringing criminal charges begins. The clock starts ticking upon the discovery of the offense instead of the actual time when the individual commits the crime.


Below is an example to help illustrate how the statute of limitations works:


Jack commits an assault with a deadly weapon on the 1st of May 2023, but the police discover the crime on the 10th of May 2023. Under the Penal Code 245, the statute of limitation for such a crime is three years. The clock starts ticking from the date of discovery, which was the 10th of May, 2023, rather than the actual date of the crime committed.


What Is the Difference Between a Civil and a Criminal Statute of Limitations?


The key difference between these two types of statute of limitations is the individual who files the charges and those who are representing the defendants.


In criminal lawsuits, the prosecutors are the ones who bring the charges. On the other hand, a civil lawsuit involves victims or family members who have lost their loved ones pursuing civil action.


What Are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?

What Are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?


Tolling rules extend the statute of limitations in California when certain conditions are met. Some of these include the following:

  • The defendant is a minor

  • The victim is mentally incapable

  • The defendant is in prison

  • The victim is completing their time in military service


Schedule a Free Consultation with Criminal Defense Lawyers for Legal Assistance


Those who are facing accusations of crimes that happened years or even decades ago in Sacramento, California, should call (916) 999-7689 to schedule a free consultation with the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Goss Law.


There is a possibility that the statute of limitations may have expired, and the legal team at Goss Law can help prepare a strong defense against prosecutor charges to avoid a conviction.

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