Which Crimes Have a Statute of Limitations in California?


Are you wondering if you can still be prosecuted for a crime in California? Learn more about Statutes of Limitations and what crimes are not covered under these laws. 

What is a statute of limitations? 

The statute of limitations is a set time period for which a prosecutor can bring criminal charges against you. If the allowable time has passed, you cannot be charged for the crime and your case will be dismissed. 

In the state of California, certain crimes have longer statutes of limitations than others. Some crimes do not have a statute of limitations. If you are unsure as to whether criminal charges can be brought against you after a period of time, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney who understands the laws around statutes of limitations can help you identify if charges can still be brought against you. 

California Penal Code 799 PC describes which crimes do not have statutes of limitations, meaning that a prosecutor can bring charges at any time. These crimes include:

  • Offenses punishable by the death penalty 
  • Offenses punishable by life in prison or life without the possibility of parole 
  • Embezzlement of public money 

Outside of the crimes listed above, other crimes will have a statute of limitations for varying lengths of time. In general, the time period corresponds directly to the severity of the crime. 

  • Crimes punishable by 8 years or more in prison have a statute of limitations of 6 years. 
  • Felonies punishable by less than 8 years in prison have a statute of limitations of 3 years. 
  • Misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of 1 year 

Why is there a statute of limitations? 

Statutes of limitations are justified under the law as a way to maintain fairness in criminal cases. Delays in the prosecution of criminal cases could result in the loss of evidence or fading memories, both of which could result in an unfair result for criminal defendants.

For example, witnesses could have moved or passed away after a significant period of time, eliminating the opportunity for them to share what they saw. Evidence has an increased likelihood of getting lost or destroyed over time, making it hard for a defendant to prove their innocence. 

When does the statute of limitations begin? 

The starting and stopping point for the statute of limitations for a criminal charge is dictated by the Discovery Rule. This directive “postpones accrual of a cause of action until the plaintiff discovers, or has reason to discover, the cause of action.” What this means is that the statute of limitations begins when the offense has been discovered, not necessarily on the date that the offense occurred. 

Learn more about Statutes of Limitations in California 

Statutes of limitations are confusing. Different crimes have different time periods, and there are exceptions to these rules. If you have questions about how statutes of limitations applies to your case, it is recommended that you contact a skilled criminal defense attorney. An experienced San Diego attorney can help you understand how the statute of limitations impacts your specific case and work hard on your behalf to keep your freedom. 

The Law Office of Joni Eisenstein has helped many clients fight for their freedom when they have criminal charges brought against them. Joni Eisenstein can work with you to identify if your charges are still valid under the statute of limitations laws. She will provide you with superior legal advice, including when the statute of limitations has expired and how to protect your rights. 

Contact our office today to schedule your free consultation with our tenacious attorney.