California has comprehensive—and complicated—rules regarding statutes of limitations for criminal cases. The statute of limitations specifies the time period within which a case must be commenced by the state. With certain offenses, there is no statute of limitations which means the state is never barred from bringing a legal action against someone for that type of offense.
Unlike many states which have only a few broad categories of offenses, California has numerous specified offenses with different statutes of limitations for each one. California also has many exceptions and tolling provisions which grant the state additional time to commence a legal action depending on the particular circumstances of the case. For example, the normal statute of limitations period is usually extended or inapplicable in cases involving minors or in rape cases if DNA evidence is used. There are many other exceptions to the general rules; you should check with an attorney if you need help determining how the rules apply to a specific set of facts.
Below is a summary of the California statute of limitation rules for criminal cases.
California Pen. § § 799 - 803
There is no statute of limitations for
- offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
- the embezzlement of public money
- cases where the defendant is a minor and the prosecuting attorney could have requested a fitness hearing under Section 707 of the Welfare and Institutions Code
Offenses punishable by imprisonment for eight years or more (some exceptions apply): 6 years
Other offenses punishable by imprisonment (some exceptions): 3 years
Crimes against elders and dependent adults (except for theft or embezzlement): 5 years from date of offense
Offenses involving the production of pornographic material with minors: 10 years
Failure to register as a sex offender: 10 years
Misdemeanors: 1 year after the date of the offense
Specified misdemeanors committed upon a minor under the age of 14: 3 years from date of offense
Sexual offense by physician or therapist with patient: 2 years
4 year statute of limitations from discovery or date of offense for: