Statute of Limitations in California and Federal Criminal Cases

July 07, 2022 by Seppi Esfandi in California  Criminal Defense  
Thumbnail for: Statute of Limitations in California and Federal Criminal Cases

The Clock Starts Now

Question: “When does the Statute clock start?”

Answer: “Once the police discover a crime.”

This is usually when the investigation starts as they try to figure out what happened and who could have committed the crime. Once they have a suspect, they will bring the evidence gathered to a prosecutor who will help decide whether there is enough evidence to bring charges against the suspect. However, you should know that the prosecutor usually has a time limit on when they can bring criminal charges against a suspect.

What Is A Criminal Statute of Limitations?

A criminal statute of limitation describes the amount of time a federal or state prosecutor has to file charges against a suspect. Once a criminal statute of limitation is up, the prosecutor cannot bring charges against an accused. Thus, if charges are filed after the time limit, a suspect can get the charges dismissed.

You should also know that different states, as well as the federal government, have different criminal statutes of limitations for various offenses. Plus, these criminal statutes of limitations also come with some exceptions, where the limitations will not apply. In some scenarios, a criminal statute of limitation can be tolled (i.e. suspended) giving the state or federal government more time to bring charges against an individual.

Why Criminal Statute Of Limitations Are Important?

Criminal statutes of limitations are valuable because they protect the rights of the defendant. With this statute, defendants are protected from having to defend themselves from charges so far back into the past that they cannot effectively defend themselves. As time goes by, evidence can get lost, witnesses can move or forget the facts of the case. Thus, making it more difficult for a defendant to prove their innocence in court.

Hence, a criminal statute of limitation ensures fairness for the defendant as they defend themselves against the charges brought against them.

California Criminal Statute of Limitations

The length of a criminal statute of limitation in California is heavily dependent on the type of crime that has been committed. The guidelines that direct and determine these limits can be found in California Penal Codes Sections 799-802 PC. Here are some of the criminal statutes of limitations found in California.

No limitations

Covered under California Penal Code 799 PC, this code states that some crimes in California have no statutory period. As such, charges of these crimes can be brought up no matter how much time has passed. These crimes include:

One Year Limitation

Described under California Penal Code 802(a) PC, this statute of limitation is mainly for misdemeanor offenses. Therefore, for misdemeanor offenses such as DUIs, California prosecutors only have one year to file charges.

Three Year Limitation

The three-year limitation requirement is stated in Penal Code 801 PC and encompasses felonies that are punishable by imprisonment, so long as the sentencing is not more than seven years. Some crimes that fall into the three-year limitation include burglary or grand theft.

Six-Year Limitation

As stated in California Penal Code 800 PC, the six-year limitation is reserved for felonies punishable by eight or more years in prison. Some crimes under the six-year limitation include arson or first-degree robbery.

California Criminal Statute of Limitations for Wobbler Crimes

Wobbler offenses can either be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Thus, if the wobbler is charged with a felony, the statute of limitation used to be based on the maximum imprisonment term the defendant could receive from the felony.

The Discovery Rule Of California

This rule states when the statute of limitation of any crime begins. According to this rule, the clock starts ticking the moment the offense is discovered rather than when it is committed. However, for federal crimes, the statute of limitation begins the moment the alleged crime occurred.

Criminal Statute of Limitations For Federal Crimes

The United States Code 18 Section 3282 states that the statute of limitation for most federal crimes is five years. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions to this rule. Some crimes have longer limitations under federal including:

6-Year Limitations – This usually involves most crimes prosecuted by the IRS, such as tax evasion.
7-Year Limitations – Crimes involving major fraud against the federal government.
8-Year Limitations – Federal terrorism acts that do not involve violence.
10-Year Limitations – Includes offenses such as arson, immigration offenses, and embezzling funds from a federal financial institution.
20-Year Limitations – Theft of a major artwork

Federal Crimes That Have No Statute Of Limitation

Charges for certain federal crimes can be filed no matter how much time has passed. These charges include:

  • Federal crimes punishable by death
  • Federal terrorism crimes that caused death or serious bodily injury
  • Sex crimes with a minor

Call A Lawyer Today

One thing you should remember about the statute of limitation is that although prosecutors can file charges against you once the limitation is up, does not mean they will not try. Thus, you need to ensure you get an attorney to check your bases and make certain your rights are established.

Need an Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

Contact Us:         
Esfandi Law Group QR Code
Esfandi Law Group
Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

Get a Free Consultation

    Free Consultation Form