Statute Of Limitations
For most Los Angeles felony and misdemeanor offenses, the prosecution has a limited amount of time to file criminal charges against the defendant. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations. The purpose of the statute of limitations is to protect defendants from having to defend themselves against accusations where the evidence may be stale, defense witnesses may no longer be available and the defendant’s own memory may be limited. There are certain serious offenses for which there is no statute of limitations, however all criminal filings must comply with the limitations period set forth in California Penal Code Section 799 PC through California Penal Code Section 805 PC.
For most types of offenses, the statute of limitations begins to run on the day that the offense was actually committed. In cases involving fraud, theft and certain sex crimes, the statute of limitations may begin to run at the point that the offense is discovered by the victim or by law enforcement.
Under California Penal Code Section 799 PC, there is no time limit for offenses that are punishable by death, life imprisonment or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This would include crimes such as murder or kidnapping. In addition, there is no statute of limitations for offenses involving the embezzlement of public funds.
Where the offense involved is a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison, the statute of limitations is six years. This would include manslaughter, first degree robbery, arson and many sex crimes in which the victim is an adult. Sex crimes involving minors carry their own statute of limitations.
For elder abuse charges (excluding financial abuse) there is a five year statute of limitations from the date of the offense.
For felonies that are punishable by a maximum of less than eight years in prison, there is a three year statute of limitations. This would include offenses such as assault with a deadly weapon (not a firearm) and burglary.
For most misdemeanor offenses, there is a one year statute of limitations. This would include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drunk in public, petty theft, hit and run (involving property damage) and many other offenses. Certain misdemeanors have a longer statute of limitations, including certain contractor and licensing offenses.
When the misdemeanor charge is a “wobbler” that could have been charged as a felony offense, the statute of limitations would be based on the maximum prison term that could have been assessed if the case had been filed as a felony. For example, vandalism that causes over $400 worth of damage is a “wobbler” that can be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. Because the maximum penalty on the felony is three years in prison, the statute of limitations for vandalism is three years even if the defendant is only charged with a misdemeanor.
The statute of limitations for any fraud offense is four years. Courts have held that this would include all instances of grand theft. For these cases, the statute of limitations begins to run upon the date of discovery of the offense or from the date of completion of the offense, whichever is later.
The running of the statute of limitations is considered to “toll” or pause if the defendant is out of state for a period of up to three years. In addition, the statute of limitations will toll when the defendant has an active case pending against him or her for the same conduct. The state of limitations will also toll when the evidence received through a search warrant is held up by a claim of attorney privilege.
A motion to dismiss a case for violating the statute of limitations can be filed at any point, but is usually heard as a demurrer motion filed right at arraignment. If the charge was filed after the statute of limitations has expired, the case will be dismissed.
If you or have been charged with a crime or are under investigation for an old offense, it is important that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately as there may be critical statute of limitations violations. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who understands this tricky area of the law and knows how to effectively litigate statute of limitations issues.
For more information about Los Angeles statute of limitations issues, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.