You cannot lawfully be arrested or prosecuted after the statute of limitations has run its course.
This blog will focus on varying statutes of limitation for California crimes, not federal crimes. Statutes of limitations are a set of time periods which a prosecutor must file criminal charges. Generally speaking, the clock starts running, for statute of limitations purposes, when the offense is first discovered.
Statute of limitations are important to a justice system because they act as a safeguard for the criminally accused. Evidence frequently gets lost, destroyed, or tainted as time passes, and witnesses to crimes may no longer be available to be interviewed or testify because they might move away, have their memory fade, or die. Imagine a scenario where a man gets arrested for a theft crime he allegedly committed ten years ago, and his one alibi witness died a year prior. Had the man been arrested sooner, within a reasonable amount of time from when law enforcement first knew about the offense, the man would have had a better chance at a defense.
The statute of limitation for most misdemeanors is one year and three years for many felonies (with some exceptions). Some crimes have no statute of limitations, like embezzlement of public money, or crimes that are punishable by life in prison or death, like murder. It gets trickier when dealing with “wobbler” offenses. These are crimes that can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. In these types of cases, the prosecutor can attempt to circumvent the statute of limitations by filing a felony case where they originally would have only charged the crime as a misdemeanor.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and wants to learn more about the legality of the charges and your options moving forward, give us a call today at (619) 295-3555 to set up a case evaluation with one of our attorneys.
The contents of this article and blog are meant for informational and marketing purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Viewing and/or use of the blog does not form an attorney-client relationship. No statements in this post are a guarantee, warranty, or prediction of a particular result in your case.