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Merely being suspected of committing a crime, regardless of whether a defendant is charged, is an extremely nerve-racking experience. Initially, dealing with law enforcement, which is structured to be an intimidating situation, can tend to make even the toughest cringe in fear. In some cases, once this procedure is over, there may be a waiting period while the prosecutor reviews the evidence to determine whether to file charges. Retaining the services of an attorney experienced in criminal defense can be crucial not only to ensure that the accused has an effective defense but also to ensure that the prosecutor does not violate the applicable statute of limitation.

A Texas man, arrested on a narcotics charge in 2012, was matched with DNA evidence linking him to multiple homicides nationwide and covering the years from 1970-2005. In the end, the man, who confessed to the Texas Rangers of committing nearly 90 murders, could very well be this country’s most prolific serial killer. A discussion of the statutes of limitation, generally, as well as the different time limits in California’s criminal code, will follow below.

What is the Process for a Prosecutor to Charge You With a Crime

You might worry or wonder about what happens next if you’re accused or suspected of a crime. Specifically, a lot of suspects wonder how long does it take to press charges on someone and how long does the DA have to file charges? In this guide, we’ll answer the key questions you need to know, including how long does the district attorney have to file charges? We’ll look through the various stages of the process for filing charges and see how and why a prosecutor might decide not to press or proceed with criminal charges.

Arrest and Police Report

Of course, the first stage in most criminal situations is an arrest. Not all crimes will involve an arrest – for example, getting a parking ticket doesn’t usually lead to any kind of arrest report – but many serious crimes will involve the arrest of a suspect by the police.

After arresting a suspect, law enforcement will move on to filing a police report. This report describes the cause of the arrest and the details surrounding it, like any witnesses, the nature of the crime, the location, and so on.

The police report is one of the main resources that the prosecutor will use to determine whether to file charges, not pursue any charges, or refer the case to a Grand Jury and ask for their guidance on the next steps.

how long does the da have to file charges

Deciding to Prosecute

In the US justice system, simply being arrested does not automatically mean you’ll have charges filed against you. It’s all up to the prosecutor, or DA, and they have to take several factors into account, including:

  • Use of Resources – There are limited resources available to handle cases, and it’s simply not feasible to file charges against everyone. The prosecutor has to decide which cases are a good use of the resources they have.
  • Policies – Each prosecutor usually has a set of policies regarding which crimes they tend to file charges for and which ones they’re more lenient towards.
  • Beliefs – The prosecutor’s own beliefs and subjective opinions on the concepts of justice and order can also come into account. They might have very strongly-held beliefs about specific kinds of crime, for example.

So, how long does it take to press charges on someone? In general, if a prosecutor decides to go ahead with criminal charges, they’ll make the decision within just a few days, well within the statute of limitations.

Grand Jury Indictment

We’ve looked at how long it takes to press charges on someone, but in some cases, the DA might decide not to press charges right away and instead go to a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury then decides if charges should be filed, based on the evidence presented by the prosecutor.

Preliminary Hearing

In some cases, a judge can organize a preliminary hearing in which they listen to evidence from the prosecutor and make the final call about whether or not there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a full trial. How long does the DA have to file charges for a preliminary hearing? Again, it’s usually just a matter of days.

Criminal Charges

If you’re facing criminal charges of any kind, you might have many other questions to ask, as well as wanting to know how long the district attorney has to file charges. A criminal defense attorney can help, and it’s recommended to contact a trusted attorney as soon as possible to get the best level of protection and support.

how long does the district attorney have to file charges

Statutes of Limitation

Although criminal cases follow a typical routine, there is a specific time period within which charges can be filed against an individual. This time period is set forth in a statute of limitation. Generally, statutes of limitations are laws that set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. In a criminal matter, when the statute of limitations has expired, the courts no longer have jurisdiction.

The purpose of statutes of limitations is to protect defendants. As time passes, defendants may lose evidence or not be able to support his/her defense. Additionally, as alluded to above, litigation of a long-dormant criminal charge may result in more cruelty than justice.

California’s Statutes of Limitations

Statutes of Limitations in California criminal matters tend to follow the severity of the penalty for the crime, specifically, the general limits on filing criminal charges are:

  • Felonies punishable by imprisonment for eight years or more – six years after commissioning of the crime;
  • Other felonies– three years; and
  • Misdemeanors – one year.

Crimes that are wobblers, meaning they can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, are subject to the time period in the statute of limitation for the crime the prosecution chooses. Thus, a wobbler charged as a misdemeanor is subject to the one-year statute of limitation, while one set as a felony would be either three or six years, as appropriate.

There are two exceptions to the above time periods. First, crimes punishable by death or life in prison (regardless of the possibility of parole), or the embezzlement of public funds, may be brought at any time. Thus, as an example, there is no statute of limitation for homicide. Second, with regard to certain crimes of a sexual nature (i.e., rape, sodomy, etc.), charges may be brought within one year of the establishment of the identity of a suspect by DNA testing, regardless of the date the crime was actually committed. Thus, in these instances, the statute of limitations begins after DNA testing has been completed and a suspect identified, and not when the crime occurred.

Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime, or suspect that you may be charged with a crime, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, as soon as possible. The attorneys understand the situation you are facing and can help you navigate the criminal system. We will work to ensure your rights are not infringed, or, if so, to have the charges against you dismissed. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact our Los Angeles criminal defense firm today for an initial consultation.

Shaheen Manshoory
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