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California statutes of limitations for criminal charges

Oakland residents who are interested in criminal defense issues may wish to know more about what a statute of limitations is. These statutory provisions can be very important when determining the validity of a criminal charge brought against a resident of the state.

Criminal statutes of limitations set forth the amount of time that a prosecutor has to file a criminal charge against someone who they allege has committed a crime. They exist to help ensure that evidence against the accused is still fresh, particularly with eyewitness testimony. Once this time period expires, the prosecutor cannot bring these charges against a person. However, the statute generally requires that the person remains within the state and not in hiding. If they leave the state or otherwise act like a fugitive, the statute is tolled. This means that those fugitive time periods are not counted against the statute of limitations. Any applicable statute of limitations will resume once the person reenters the state.

Different crimes have different statutes of limitations. In California, there are three categories that depend on the potential penalties for a particular crime. Some crimes, such as murder, embezzlement of public money and those that carry the potential for the death penalty or life in prison, have no statute of limitations at all. If an offense has the possibility of over eight years in prison, the statute of limitations is six years. Other crimes that have the potential for any period of imprisonment carry a three-year statute of limitations.

In order to stay informed about the particular statute of limitations that accompanies a criminal charge, an attorney may be able to help. Legal counsel may be useful throughout the criminal defense process, from an initial arrest through plea negotiation and trial.

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