Merely being suspected of committing a crime, regardless of whether a defendant is actually 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 ensuring that the accused has an effective defense, but also to ensure that the prosecutor does not violate the applicable statute of limitation. Recently, 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 differing time limits in California’s criminal code, will follow below.
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 which 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 are 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 commission 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 which the prosecution chooses. Thus, a wobbler charged as a misdemeanor is subject to the one year statute of limitation, while one charged 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 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, APC 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.