Being charged with a crime can be a harrowing experience. In many cases, the suspect is confronted with the distinct possibility that his/her life will be turned upside down, even if not convicted. Given that a substantial fine and/or prison time is a possibility, all efforts and energy must be directed towards defending the charges against him/her. Retaining the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney can help alleviate some of the stress involved with being charged with a crime. One possible defense against criminal charges is that the State waited too long to file the charges, thus depriving the suspect of his/her right to a speedy trial, as well as violating of the statute of limitations for the particular crime charged. Entertainment personality Bill Cosby was recently found guilty and sentenced to a prison term of 3-10 years for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004. Although Cosby was actually accused of various sexual-related crimes by multiple women, he was able to avoid prosecution for all but one of the crimes because they happened well after the statute of limitations for those particular crimes had expired. A discussion of statutes of limitation, when such statutes may not apply, and a suspect’s Constitutional right to a speedy trial, will follow below.
Statutes of Limitation
In the criminal context, a Statute of Limitation is a law which sets how long the State may bring charges against a suspect. Typically, the time periods set in statutes of limitation vary by crime. Nevertheless, if the State fails to bring charges against a suspect within the stated time, the State cannot pursue any action against the suspect or, if it attempts to do so, the defendant can petition the court to dismiss the charges. Typically, the court mandated to issue a dismissal if it finds that the statute of limitations has expired.
In California, the time period, for calculating the limit in the statute of limitations, typically starts on the day the crime is alleged to have committed. However, there are some instances in which the time period begins when the State knows, or should have known, that a criminal act was committed. Matters falling under this aspect of the statute of limitations involve fraud and child molestation.
Finally, an important point should be noted here. If a suspect is, in fact, charged with a crime, the statute of limitations is stopped (referred to as tolling the statute of limitations). This is an important issue, which will be revisited below.
Crimes Without a Statute of Limitation
In California, some crimes have no statute of limitation, meaning charges can be filed at any time. These crimes include:
- Crimes punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole;
- Crimes for the embezzlement of public funds; and
- Various sexual crimes, such as rape and child molestation.
The Right to a Speedy Trial
There is another factor affecting the speed at which the State must act. Specifically, the U.S. Constitution provides defendants with a right to a speedy trial. This right is intended to protect the defendant from an unreasonable delay between the filing of the charges and the beginning of the trial. In California, by law, defendants have a right to the commencement of a trial within one year of the filing of charges.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime, please contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. We have an immense knowledge of criminal law, including ensuring that the State is acting according to the law. To that end, We will work to devise a strategy and present the best case for you. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.