How Long Do Prosecutors Have to File Criminal Charges?

Posted on Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 8:46 am    

Man Reviewing Paperwork Prepared by Los Angeles Prosecutors

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How Long Do Prosecutors Have To File Charges in California?

If you or a loved one are under investigation for a crime in California, you likely want to ask a lot of questions. One of these may be how long Los Angeles prosecutors have to file criminal charges against you. The answer to that question depends on several factors. Most criminal cases have a statute of limitations, which is the period of time a prosecutor has to file charges or to seek a felony indictment against you from a grand jury. The specific statute of limitations depends on the crime you allegedly committed.

To learn more about criminal statutes of limitations and how long a prosecutor has to file charges, call a Los Angeles criminal lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. at 310-424-5816 to schedule a free consultation. You can also contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

California’s Criminal Statute of Limitations

California’s law regarding statutes of limitations for criminal cases can be found in California Penal Code (PC), Part 2, Title 3, Chapter 2, §§799-805: Time of Commending Criminal Actions.

In general, the law states:

  • For felony crimes punishable by eight years or more in prison, charges must be commenced within six years of when the crime was committed.
  • For felony crimes punishable by less than eight years in prison, prosecutors have three years from when the offense was committed to file charges.
  • For misdemeanor crimes, charges must be brought within three years, two years, or one of the offense, depending on the specific details of the crime.

There are several statutes of limitations that address specific offenses and give Los Angeles prosecutors a longer period of time to file charges, so it’s important to retain the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney right away if someone alleges you committed an offense.

When the Statute of Limitations May be Paused, Delayed, or Extended

The statute of limitations is like a clock. On the date the crime was committed, the clock begins to run. The prosecutor has to learn of the crime, investigate, gather evidence, and file charges before the clock runs out of time.

However, there are many circumstances in which the clock does not start right away, the clock starts but it is paused in the middle, or the deadline extends.

For certain offenses in California, the clock does not begin to run until the crime is discovered or could reasonably be discovered. Law enforcement may not find out about a crime for months or years after it was committed, and in some cases, that is when the clock begins to run.

The statute of limitations on a crime may not begin until law enforcement have a suspect. This often happens with cold cases. A crime may have been committed years ago, but there were no viable leads at the time. Years later, new DNA information may be relevant to the closed case. This re-opens the file and may start the clock for the statute of limitations years after the date the crime was actually committed. In California, prosecutors have one year to file charges from the date DNA is used to establish a suspect. However, cold cases can be complicated. If you or a loved one are implicated in a cold case, call a criminal defense lawyer immediately.

When the defendant is out of the state, this allows the statute of limitations to be “tolled” for three years. In other words, it pauses. If the defendant is actively evading arrest, the statute of limitations is tolled indefinitely. Additionally, for certain felony sex crimes that are committed against minors, prosecutors have 10 years after the minor’s 18th birthday to file charges. The time to file charges is then extended until the victim’s 28th birthday.

There are many ways in which prosecutors can get a longer period of time before they file charges. If you are unsure of your rights, contact a Los Angeles criminal lawyer to review your situation.

Crimes Without a Statute of Limitations

Crimes that are punishable by life in prison without the possibility of parole or death do not have a time limit, under PC §799(a). If you are accused of committing one of these types of crimes, then there is no limit to when Los Angeles prosecutors may bring a criminal case against you. This statute also says there is no statute of limitations for embezzlement of public money.

Under PC §799(b), there is no statute of limitations for certain sex crimes, such as child molestation, if it was committed on or after January 1, 2017, and for offenses for which the original statute of limitations had not run by January 1, 2017.

Are You Under Investigation? Call a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for Help

Los Angeles prosecutors have varying periods of time in which they can file criminal charges for cases committed within the state. If you or a loved one are under investigation for a crime, and you feel like the issue is handing over your heads, call the criminal defense lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. for help. We will thoroughly review your situation and advise you of the relevant statute of limitations.

You can reach us online or call us at 310-424-5816 to schedule a free consultation.