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California Statute of Limitations

California’s statute of limitations law sets limits for the duration a prosecutor may wait to file formal criminal charges. As such in other states, there is no time limit to bring charges for crimes such as murder or embezzlement of public funds. However, lesser felonies have only a three-year statute of limitations, while misdemeanors are three and sometimes two years.


Statute of Limitations Basics

A “statute of limitations” is a time limit for bringing a lawsuit against an individual. This limitation is frequently different for different types of lawsuits. The time limitation for a lawsuit for a breach of a contract may be different than the time limitation for a lawsuit based on an auto accident. This also changes for criminal cases. Minor crimes may have a shorter statute of limitations than major crimes, which can often have no limitation at all.

Why Do Statutes of Limitations Exist?

One main justification for a statute of limitations is the unfairness a delayed trial may cause to the defendant.

For criminal law cases, the delay in prosecution can be particularly prejudicial. In the time since the alleged crime and the prosecution, you may have lost evidence that would prove you did not commit the alleged crime. Even though the prosecution still must prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, basic items like receipts, pictures, or phone records could prove your innocence, and may very well be lost over time.

California’s Discovery Rule

It is important to note that the statutory period for charging a case does not begin until the offense is discovered or should have been discovered. Furthermore, statutes of limitations change from state to state, and what is law in California may not be necessarily so in another state.

If you are facing charges that you believe may be out of the bounds of California’s statue of limitations, please call the Law Offices of Sara D. Bratch for a FREE consultation, today!