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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

What Are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in California? | Civil & Criminal Justice Syst

The California statute of limitations refers to the maximum duration of time in which the government or the affected party may be able to bring a criminal or civil lawsuit against the defendant. In most civil cases, including wrongful death, the statute of limitations is around two years from the date of discovery.


However, there are some circumstances where the law allows for tolling. The criminal lawyers in Sacramento at Goss Law can help the defendants by assessing their cases and guiding them on their legal options.


What Are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in California in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

What Are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in California in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?


The exceptions to the statute of limitations are also referred to as "tolling." This is a term used when certain circumstances temporarily suspend the limitations period.


There are five situations that can extend or place a pause on the time frame allotted under the civil justice system, and these include the following:


The Plaintiff Is a Minor (Under 18 Years of Age)


When a minor suffers injuries in an accident, the statute of limitations for their personal injury case starts from the day they turn 18. In cases involving medical malpractice, if the victim suffered injuries before birth, California law extends the statute of limitations to six years from the date of birth, in which they can pursue a personal injury lawsuit.


The Plaintiff Does Not Have a Sound Mind


When a plaintiff is declared mentally incompetent at the time of their injury, the law places a hold on the statute of limitations, which only begins once they're mentally competent again.


The Plaintiff Dies within Six Months


If the plaintiff dies in the last few months of the statute of limitations (maximum six months), the law allows the surviving family members or loved ones to pursue a civil action within six months of their death.


The Plaintiff Is in Prison


Under California personal injury law, the tolling period for the statute of limitations for a plaintiff in prison is two years or until their release, whichever comes first.


The Plaintiff Is Performing Military Service


The tolling period for the statute of limitations for a plaintiff performing military service is the duration of their time in the military.


There is also a tolling period for when the defendant is out of state. It's important to note that this California personal injury law does not apply to non-resident motorists.


In case the defendant leaves the state for vacation, work, or other purposes, the statute of limitations is immediately extended for the number of days the defendant was away.


Below is an example to help illustrate how the tolling period works when the defendant is out of state:


Jack is responsible for an accident resulting in injuries to Jane. However, Jack leaves the state for work purposes for three months. In this example, under California law, Jane will receive an additional three months in which she can file a personal injury lawsuit.


Statutes of Limitations in Claims Against the Government in California


In personal injury cases against a government entity, the statute of limitations differs from a legal claim against a private party.


When pursuing civil action against the responsible government agency, the legal claim is commonly referred to as an "administrative claim," which the victims must pursue within six months of the date of the injury.


However, if the government agency is responsible for a breach of contract or property damage, under the California personal injury statute of limitations, the victims can pursue an administrative claim within one year of violating the written contract or damage to the property.


Once the victim files an administrative claim against the government, the defendant has 45 days to respond. In case the public entity declines the claim, the affected party may pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the government within six months from the date of denial.


It's crucial for the victims to seek legal help from professionals when pursuing personal injury lawsuits. Goss Law can explain what happens to first time felony offenders in California.


California Statute of Limitations for Criminal Defense Cases


Under the California Penal Code, there is a one-year statute of limitations on misdemeanor offenses and a three-year statute of limitations on felonies.


If an individual commits a serious crime, the court can charge them within three years from the date of the discovery of the crime. Goss Law has answers to questions like What makes an assault a felony in California?


However, the statute of limitations varies for some criminal offenses, including the following:

  • Sexual assault: Under the California Penal Code, sexual assault is a felony offense for which the court has 10 years after the commission of the crime to bring criminal charges against the defendant.

  • Serious offenses: Some offenses that are punishable by a jail imprisonment term of eight years or more have a six-year statute of limitations.

  • White-collar crimes: These are commonly referred to as non-violent crimes where the individual steals, takes, or appropriates money illegally. Some examples of white-collar crimes include fraud, embezzlement, forgery, bribery, and grand theft. The statute of limitations for these types of offenses is four years from the crime's discovery date.


What Are the Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in California in a Criminal Case?


Although the Penal Code mentions the statute of limitations for different types of criminal offenses, there are some crimes that are exempt from it. This means that the government can prosecute these types of offenders at any time.


The exceptions to the statute of limitations in California in a criminal case include the following:

  • Public funds embezzlement

  • Rape of a minor

  • Offenses that are punishable by life imprisonment and death (murder, manslaughter, or kidnapping)


When Does the Time Start Under the California Statute of Limitations?

When Does the Time Start Under the California Statute of Limitations?


Whether it is a criminal or civil case, the state follows the discovery rule, which determines when the statute of limitations time starts to count. This rule refers to the time of discovery of the crime or injury.

Below is an example to explain how the discovery rule works:


Matt disregards traffic laws and gets into an accident with another vehicle driven by Ben. At the time the incident occurred, Ben was feeling fine. However, he started developing pain in his spinal cord after one month.


In the example above, Ben's statute of limitations begins when he discovers his injury, regardless of whether it was one day or one month after the actual incident.


Under California law, most victims can pursue personal injury claims within two years of when the injury occurred.


Those who have suffered injuries in an accident in California must reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer for legal assistance. However, those who are facing criminal charges need to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney for help.


Schedule a Free Consultation with Criminal Defense Attorneys in Sacramento


Those who are facing criminal charges in Sacramento, California, must schedule a free consultation with experienced criminal defense attorneys at Goss Law. They can help assess their cases and provide them with legal guidance.

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