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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

Drug Possession Statute of Limitations - California Penal Code

In California, drug possession charges are regarded as very serious offenses punishable by prison sentences.

Usually, possession of a controlled substance is considered a misdemeanor crime. However, since it is punishable by prison time, it carries a significant time limit when it comes to the statute of limitations.

That means defendants can still find themselves in court a long time after the offense occurred. However, with the right lawyer fighting for the defendant's rights, they can get the best possible outcome.

A good attorney will not allow the state to file criminal charges after the statute of limitations has expired.

Anyone being charged with a crime punishable by prison time, such as drug possession, can call Goss Law today and schedule a free consultation. They can also share insight on the embezzlement statute of limitations California.

What Is the Statute of Limitations Law in California

What Is the Statute of Limitations Law in California

The statute of limitations exists to outline the maximum amount of time that state or federal prosecutors have to conduct a criminal investigation and file charges against the accused.

In general, misdemeanor crimes are given a one-year statute of limitations period, while more serious felony crimes punishable by state prison time have up to a three-year statute of limitations.

It is important to note that a crime punishable by many years in prison will also likely have longer statutes of limitations.

An example is a crime that carries a punishment of eight or more years behind bars. Such cases will carry criminal statutes of limitations of up to six years.

A six-year statute of limitations means that a defendant can still be charged with a crime long after they have forgotten ever committing it.

The California Penal Code usually reserves such long statutes of limitations for violent felony crimes or failing to register as a sex offender.

It is also possible for a crime to be deemed so serious that no statute of limitations will be placed on it. This is true for murder, rape, kidnapping (California Penal Codes 187, 207, and 261), and other extreme offenses.

California Statute of Limitation on Drug Charges

Crimes in California are listed under a specific penal code, such as California Penal Code 187 for murder. The most basic drug possession charge is listed under the California Health and Safety Code 11350 HSC.

Most drug possession charges, such as cocaine possession or prescription drug charges are punishable by up to one year in prison. An exception is a marijuana possession charge which usually carries a much lighter sentence.

These criminal charges usually have a statute of limitations of up to three years because of the potential for prison time.

This statute of limitations is meant to give police and prosecutors a three-year statute to arrest and file charges against the defendant.

It does not mean that the entire legal process from arrest to trial and conviction should be concluded within three years.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Work for Drug-related Criminal Charges?

In California, the statute of limitations begins when the crime is complete. In other words, this is the point at which the clock starts running.

As such, a skilled criminal defense attorney will always look at the arrest warrant to determine at which point their client's statute of limitations began.

The police will often only decide to arrest a suspect when they believe they have probable cause, before handing the case over to the county District Attorney’s Office.

In many cases, the prosecution will not delay before filing charges, although this does happen from time to time.

When counting the amount of time that has elapsed since the clock started ticking on the statute of limitations for a drug possession charge, a criminal defense lawyer knows not to include any time the defendant was out of state.

If the defendant leaves the state before the deadline for prosecution arrives, the statute of limitations pauses until they re-enter California.

This can add up to three years on top of the original statute of limitations, giving the prosecution six years to file charges against the defendant.

Experienced California criminal defense lawyers will always consider how long ago the crime was committed so that they can get the charges dismissed if it can be proved that the statute of limitations has expired. They can also provide information on the theft statute of limitations California.

When Does the Clock Start Running?

The discovery rule dictates that the clock starts ticking from the time the crime is discovered.

This means if a crime is committed and goes unnoticed by the police for a few months, the statute of limitations will only start when the crime is discovered and the suspect is arrested for the alleged crime.

What to Do When Arrested on Drug Possession Charges

The chances of a defendant walking away from a criminal case involving a felony crime or misdemeanor will drastically improve if they know the right steps to take. When arrested for drug possession, the defendant must:

  • Avoid incriminating themselves by giving official statements

  • Request to see their criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible

Do All Arrests Occur Right Away?

To prevent suspects from disposing of valuable evidence, most drug possession crimes result in an immediate arrest. This means that in the majority of cases, the statute of limitations is not a major factor in such a criminal case.

However, in certain circumstances, such as when the suspect is holding drugs with the intent to sell them, the police may hold off on the arrest while they build a drug trafficking case against the individual.

How Can Criminal Defense Attorneys Help?

How Can Criminal Defense Attorneys Help?

When facing drug possession charges, a good Sacramento drug crime lawyer can help in many ways, such as:

  • Understanding the drug possession statute of limitations California imposes

  • Implementing the discovery rule and statute of limitations

  • Providing legal representation and advice

  • Fighting for the defendant's rights in court

Goss Law Is Ready to Take the Case

Unlike a civil lawsuit, a criminal charge for drug possession can result in the defendant spending some time behind bars.

As such, it is important to always have a team of skilled criminal defense attorneys fighting for the rights of the accused.

Goss Law is a top-tier law firm with the experience, knowledge, and determination to fight for its clients in court.

Anyone arrested on drug possession charges can call the law firm's Sacramento offices today for a free case evaluation.


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