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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

Theft Statute of Limitations California Residents Need to Know

Most California theft offenses punishable by prison terms are often considered as either a misdemeanor crime or felony crimes. It is important to know which is which to determine the applicable theft statute of limitations.


California criminal statutes of limitations violations will result in the case being dismissed and the defendant walking away without the possibility of serving state prison time or any other punishment.


This is why prosecutors will be in a hurry to file charges against a suspect for petty theft, receiving stolen property, grand theft, or any other sort of theft crime.


However, while it is the prosecutor's job to pursue criminal charges against those accused of theft offenses, the defendant's rights still need to be protected. This is where Goss Law comes in.


With many years of fighting for the rights of Sacramento residents, Goss Law has the track record, experience, compassion, and knowledge to help anyone facing criminal prosecution in California. Defendants can call the law firm today to schedule a free case evaluation. Goss Law can also provide information on a drug possession statute of limitations California.


What Is the Statute of Limitations for "Theft” Criminal Charges in California?

What Is the Statute of Limitations for "Theft” Criminal Charges in California?


Theft charges cannot exceed criminal statutes of limitations set by the California Penal Code. However, not all theft offenses are treated the same. It is important to determine whether the defendant is being accused of a misdemeanor charge, a felony crime, or a wobbler offense.


In each case, the following statutes of limitations will apply:


Petty Theft and Misdemeanor Crimes

A misdemeanor offense is often the best-case scenario for anyone charged with theft crimes. These theft offenses are not punishable by state prison time and often have a statute of limitations of one year from the time the offense was committed.


If prosecutors are not able to file criminal charges against the suspect within a year, the criminal charges are dismissed and the case will not be opened again in future. Some examples of misdemeanor theft offenses are petty theft, receiving stolen property, and shoplifting.


Grand Theft and Felony Crimes

if a theft crime is listed as a felony, the consequences are much more severe for the defendant who will be facing the possibility of prison time. Due to the severity of the offense and possible punishment, felony theft crimes have a statute of limitations of up to three years.


After three years, if no charges have been filed against the suspect, a defense attorney can have the criminal case dismissed. Robbery, first-degree burglary, and grand theft of a firearm are examples of felony theft offenses.


Wobbler Offenses

There are many times when a theft offense can be categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime. Such cases are called wobbler offenses.


In such situations, it will be up to the prosecutor to decide how they will charge the suspect. Usually, the defendant's criminal history and other specific circumstances of the case will be considered.


Only after the crime has been categorized will the statute of limitations be imposed, which will be one year for a misdemeanor or three years for a felony offense.


A skilled theft defense lawyer in Sacramento will always fight hard to get the case tried as a misdemeanor because of the shorter statute of limitations and the fact that no prison sentence will be imposed should the defendant lose the case.


Discovery Rule?


Determining exactly where the statute of limitations begins is very important. This is because some defense strategies may be based on getting the case dismissed for exceeding the deadline for filing criminal charges.


The discovery rule dictates that the statute of limitations only begins to count down after the crime occurs and is discovered. If a crime occurs but is only discovered a year later by the police, that entire year before discovery will not count towards the statute of limitations deadline.


However, if the police discover the crime and then spend an entire year conducting their criminal investigation, a good defense attorney can argue that all this time should count towards the statute of limitations expiration date.


It is not easy to determine exactly when the statute of limitations clock starts running without the help of a skilled lawyer who has handled such cases before.


Why Does the Law Have a Statute of Limitations to File Criminal Charges?


There are many reasons why having a statute of limitations law is important when dealing with a theft criminal charge or other offenses. However, one of the most important ones is to preserve some kind of fairness for the defendants.


Just like civil lawsuits, criminal cases are built on evidence brought against the defendant by the prosecutor. The longer the state takes to file charges, the more difficult it will be for the defense team to fight for the rights of their client.


Some evidence may get lost or witnesses may no longer be able to recall the exact events surrounding the theft incident. As such, it is usually in the interest of both parties to handle the case as soon as possible.


Steps to Take After Being Arrested for Theft Crimes in California


Soon after being arrested for a theft crime, defendants need to know that the clock is already ticking and that their defense has already started.


As such, they must avoid incriminating themselves and refuse to give any written or recorded testimonies in the absence of their attorney.


The best thing to do in all situations is to ask to call their lawyer the first chance they get. That way, they can avoid saying anything that will be used against them later in court.


How Can An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

How Can An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Help?


A good criminal defense attorney will always have a wide range of strategies to help fight for the rights of their client. These can include any of the following:


  • Claiming no intention of stealing

  • Proving that the owner gave the defendant consent to use the property

  • Claiming ownership of the property in question

  • Proving a case of false accusation

  • Showing that the statute of limitations has expired


Goss Law has a lot of experience defending clients who are accused of theft crimes in Sacramento, CA. Anyone looking for top-tier legal representation against charges of California theft offenses can schedule a free consultation with the law firm today.

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