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Statute of Limitations in California

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Every U.S state is required under federal law to have a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations sets the time limit in each state for the commencement of lawsuits and other civil actions. In other words, depending on the offense, after a specific period of time, no one is allowed to commence legal action. This is because the matter would have gotten stale, evidence may have been lost, witnesses may be hard to track down and their memories may be hazy, and if the crime were really that serious, it would have been taken to court more promptly.

In California, some violations only allow a statute of limitation of one year, as is the case for most misdemeanors. However, certain cases, such as creating or assisting in the creation of child pornography, have a statute of limitation period of ten years, and some cases have no limitation, such as murder.

Delayed Charges

Many people who have been arrested may grow falsely optimistic when the process of their charges being pressed is delayed. While it is true that District Attorneys typically file cases the quickest when they have sufficient amounts of evidence, it is not indicative that charges will not be filed. The statute of limitations allows the prosecution to conduct their investigation and collect evidence.

For example, in a DUI case it may take several months for charges to be filed because they are testing the blood alcohol percentage of the defendant’s blood in a laboratory and still awaiting results. Testing fingerprints or DNA samples also can take a while. However, if charges are delayed long enough to exceed the statute of limitations for the crime, then all charges must be dropped.

Can a Person Be Represented Before a Crime is Charged?

There is often a gap in the timeline when one is arrested or receives their notification to appear in court and when the charges are actually filed. During this time period, it may be valuable to hire pre-charging representation. This is when an experienced lawyer is brought in to follow up on the charges and monitor the case. They could ensure the defendant is receiving fair treatment, try to prevent charges from being filed by discussing the case with the District Attorney ahead of time, and keep the client updated on the developments of their case. Additionally, having a pre-charging attorney could help with exercising rights during custodial interrogations and other police investigations. Finally, pre-charging attorneys can help seal arrests or file factual innocence motions if the statute of limitations is expired or the charges are rejected.

Contact an Attorney Today

The statute of limitations can be complex, being that they vary from crime to crime and state to state. It is important to know the ins and outs of your state’s statute of limitations laws in order to protect your rights. If you or a loved one is confused about these guidelines and need help navigating your case, an experienced attorney at The Nieves Law Firm could help. Schedule your appointment today.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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