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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

Misdemeanor Statute of Limitations - California Updated Laws and Essential Information for Victims

The Statute of Limitations helps determine how long someone has to file criminal charges. In California, there are general rules; for example, a person will only have one year for a misdemeanor and three for a felony.


Nonetheless, there are exceptions depending on the type of crime. Felony offenses punishable by eight or more years of life imprisonment will grant the person up to six years to file criminal charges, for instance.

In most cases, there will be a longer Statute of Limitations for violent crimes compared to misdemeanors.

Moreover, in some cases, such as when a murder happens, there is no Statute of Limitations according to California law. It means the prosecutor will be able to file charges for the offense at any time.


Although there are exceptions, the California Criminal Statute of Limitations exists to put a time limit on how long a person has to file charges. If they take longer than they should, they risk getting their case dismissed.

In this article, people will find out more about the Statute of Limitations in California for misdemeanor crimes, felonies, and other cases. Goss Law has more information on DUI statute of limitations California too.


Why Is the Statute of Limitations Crucial?

Why Is the Statute of Limitations Crucial?


The most critical aspect of the Statute of Limitations is that it defends the defendant's rights. General laws recognize that evidence will disappear as time passes, and it could be crucial to prove innocence.

After several years pass, witnesses may not even be able to remember what happened, for example. In some instances, they might move elsewhere or be unreachable.


The logic behind the Statute of Limitations is that proving criminal charges is more challenging as time goes on.


Therefore, the Statute of Limitations helps ensure fairness for the person.


As the article mentioned, however, there are some crimes that don't have a Statute of Limitations, such as murder and rape with violence. It usually only happens in severe criminal cases.


Lastly, people should keep in mind that there's a rule to determine when criminal statutes of limitation are put in place. There's more information on that below.


Some Criminal Offenses and Their Statute of Limitations


Unfortunately, the state of California has a lot of nuances when it comes to determining the Statute of Limitations period.


There are special rules regarding public money, child pornography, elder abuse, aggravated sexual assault, and other sexual crimes, for instance.


However, other criminal cases fall into general penal code categories and will generally have a specific Statute of Limitations period. The following are some examples of this:

  • 10 years: Failing to register as a sex offender after the person has been convicted. It also applies to different sexual crimes, including child pornography.

  • Five years: Elder crimes and any other situation where a dependent adult is involved. It also includes embezzlement and theft.

  • Four years: Fraud, embezzlement, misconduct by a public employee or official, and breach of trust with elders.

  • Three years: Offenses against minors younger than 14 years old.

  • Two years: Sexual crimes that a doctor commits against their patient.

The Essentials of California's Statute of Limitations


Broadly speaking, there are a few areas in which California separates crimes to determine a Statute of Limitations.


Generally, the three areas are offenses punishable by life in prison, death, and embezzlement of public funds.


If the crime is punishable by eight or more years in prison, for example, the Statute of Limitations will be six years. Robbery and arson fall into this category.


Alternatively, offenses punishable by imprisonment are often in the three-year category when it comes to the Statute of Limitations. Criminal law includes burglary and assault with a deadly weapon in this case.


Lastly, offenses not punishable by life imprisonment or death often have a one-year Statute of Limitations. It's the case for most misdemeanors, including hit and runs, DUIs, and petty theft.


It's crucial to remember that the district attorney and other law enforcement agents will be the ones to determine what happens to the person involved in the crime. Since they will have to handle a civil lawsuit, getting legal assistance is always the best idea.


Are There Crimes without a Statute of Limitations?


As the article mentioned, there are several crimes that don't have a criminal Statute of Limitations.

First-degree murder, a child's aggravated sexual assault, rape or spousal rape involving violence or force, public money embezzlement, and treason are some of these cases.


However, people should remember that Statute of Limitations laws may have different interpretations depending on the specifics of a criminal case.


What Is the Discovery Rule?

What Is the Discovery Rule?


The state of California's discovery rule will dictate when the clock starts ticking for the Statute of Limitations.

Although many people believe that the clock begins ticking when the offense happens, it's not the case.


The discovery rule states that time starts passing when the offense is discovered. Therefore, if someone commits a crime but others find out six months later, the clock will start ticking then and not before.

People must always remember that in California, the criminal Statute of Limitations law will vary depending on the specific offense and the type of case the person's dealing with.


There Are Also Some Exceptions


Since some criminal offenses may exceed the Statute of Limitations, the person may face charges for their alleged offense even after time passed.


Furthermore, there are also variances depending on who files the lawsuit. Prosecutors will be the ones to file criminal suits, while victims and their families are most likely to file civil ones.


Victims Must Hire Legal Assistance Today


When someone commits a crime or is the unfortunate victim of one, they might feel confused and at a loss on what to do.


Nonetheless, there are top-notch law firms such as Goss Law, which offers knowledgeable and experienced experts who are ready to help people in need. A Sacramento criminal lawyer from this firm will be dedicated to guiding you through the process.


Moving through the intricacies of California criminal law and understanding all its nuances is an almost impossible challenge for someone who doesn't know much about it.


Therefore, a passionate lawyer is the professional to hire because they will aggressively defend the person and suggest the best options for their case.

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