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California Criminal Statute Of Limitations Laws

On Behalf of | Oct 8, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The criminal statute of limitations in California sets specific time limits within which prosecutors can file criminal charges against individuals. California’s statute of limitations ensures that cases are brought to trial within a reasonable time frame, which promotes fairness in the criminal justice system.

California time limits for prosecution

In California, the statute of limitations varies depending on the severity of the crime. The rationale behind these restrictions is to ensure that defendants are treated fairly in criminal defense proceedings. Over time, evidence may deteriorate or become unavailable.

Crimes with no statute of limitations

There is no time limit on filing charges for offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment. This means that a person can be charged with murder regardless of how many years have passed since the alleged crime occurred.


For other serious felonies that carry sentences of 8 or more years in prison, the statute of limitations is set at six years. Less severe felonies, those punishable by imprisonment but not falling into the more serious category, have a 3-year statute of limitations.


Misdemeanors, which are less serious offenses, generally have a one-year statute of limitations. However, certain misdemeanor violations committed against minors under 14 years of age extend the statute of limitations to three years.


The statute of limitations clock doesn’t start ticking until the offense is discovered or should have been discovered. If the defendant is not in California when the offense is committed or leaves the state after committing the crime, then prosecutors have another three years to bring charges against the individual.

California’s criminal statute of limitation laws ensure that criminal cases are prosecuted fairly. The goal is to ensure no crime is charged too harshly or innocent people are not charged for a crime they did not commit.