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Can You Be Arrested or Charged for a Crime After the Statute of Limitations Have Expired in California?

Criminal Law

The Statute of Limitations or “SOL” is a statute that assigns a certain time after which rights cannot be enforced by legal action or offenses cannot be punished. Therefore, if files are charged after the Statute of Limitation period expires, a person can’t be lawfully arrested or charged for that offense. However, in certain instances, this statute can be dependent on the severity of the crime.

Statute of Limitations Under California Criminal Law

In California, a SOL refers to the maximum time period for which a prosecutor can file criminal charges. By law, if you are accused of a crime, you cannot be charged if the SOL for that crime has expired.

Furthermore, a rule called The Discovery Rule is used to determine when the statutory period for bringing criminal charges begins. This rule states that the SOL period begins to run when an offense in discovered. For instance, if a person commits a misdemeanor on May 5th, 2019, authorities will have until May 5th, 2020 to arrest the suspect or file charges for that crime.

What is the Statute of Limitations for California Crimes?

In California, the SOL for an offense usually changes with the severity of the crime. For example:

  • Under California Penal Code 801 PC, felonies, or offenses punishable by imprisonment, have a Statute of Limitations of three years,
  • and generally, less severe charges involving misdemeanors have a SOL of one year.
  • According to California Penal Code 800 PC, crimes that are punishable by imprisonment for eight years or more have a SOL of six years.

Are All Crimes Subject to SOL?

In short, not all crimes have a Statute of Limitations in California. With that said, under California Penal Code 799 PC, arrests and charges of the following crimes can be brought against an individual at any time:

  • Crimes punishable by death.
  • Crimes punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for life without the possibility of parole.
  • Embezzlement of public money.

The Importance of Statute of Limitations

Ultimately, the Statute of Limitations are in place to ensure fairness for defendants because certain instances can arise as time passes in criminal cases. Some examples are:

  • Evidence to get lost or destroyed, or
  • in cases that span over a long period of time, it is possible that the witness will have a hard time recalling specific instances to the crime that took place.

Can Your Case be Dismissed Due to a Violation of SOL?

To determine whether a potential violation of the Statute of Limitations can lead to the dismissal of criminal charges that have been brought against you generally depends on a variety of factors and it is best to consult with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. At Premier Federal Criminal Defenders, we have the resources and a successful track record defending our clients from serious charges. Please call us today at 1-800-455-6200 for a free consultation.

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