What Is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations definition can best be described as a legal time limit on filing court actions. In criminal court, the prosecutor’s office must file formal criminal charges before the statute of limitations expires, or a conviction can never be obtained. For this reason, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors watch statutes of limitations very closely.

California statute of limitations criminal cases depend on the alleged offense. Generally speaking, felony offenses that carry sentences of 8 or more years in prison have a six-year statute of limitations and felonies carrying possible imprisonment of less than 8 years have a 3-year statute of limitations. Most misdemeanors have a 1-year statute of limitations.

Statutes of limitations for criminal charges in California may be disputed by attorneys in court. The state and the defense may disagree on when the limitations began for a specific case. As a result, a bail bond may be necessary in cases where statutes of limitations are in dispute. Also, if a defendant faces multiple charges, he or she may need bail bonding because not all charges may be dismissed based on time limitations.

California statutes of limitations laws have several exceptions. Murder and other offenses that carry the death penalty or life imprisonment have no statutes of limitations. Some criminal charges in California involving sexual assault also have no statute of limitations. California statute of limitations criminal cases begins once a crime is discovered, as opposed to when it occurred.

A statute of limitations definition also applies to civil cases. California civil statute of limitations varies by the type of lawsuit. For example, California statutes of limitations for medical malpractice require a suit be filed in three years; lawsuits for violation of written contracts have a four-year limitation; breach of oral contracts, two years; libel and slander cases must be filed within one year.

According to California civil statute of limitations rules, the limitation time period starts on the date of harm or the date the harm was discovered. In evaluating a civil lawsuit statute of limitations, attorneys must determine if harm was discovered on the day it occurred. Though in some cases, a day of harm may be obvious, such as after an accident, the victim may discover harms at a later date, such as with an injury where symptoms were not immediate.

Other cases, like asbestos exposure, may have no single date of injury. The statute of limitations would start when the medical harm to the victim was discovered. In many cases, the time when the statute of limitations starts may be disputed. If you have questions about a civil lawsuit statute of limitations, contact a California civil litigation attorney.

Justifications for statutes of limitations

Over time, evidence beneficial to the defense may be lost. Because defendants may be unaware they are under investigation, many, particularly those who are innocent, would have taken no pains to preserve any evidence, such as documents, or to identify any potential witnesses. As a result, an innocent person could be found guilty, which forms the basis for justifications for statutes of limitations.

How long is the statute of limitations in California for specific case types?

One of the most used statutes of limitations is California Civil Code 337. California Civil Code 337 involved the statute of limitations of California credit card debt. These days, consumer debt is high, leading to high default rates. The statute of limitations California credit card debt is governed by the limits on written-contract lawsuits, which stands at 4 years. Should the case involve fraud, the statute of limitations stands at 4 years. Fraud cases are based on the discovery of the alleged fraud.

Many California homeowners bring cases against real estate brokers. If you have a case against a broker, the statute of limitations for real estate stands at two years. This statute of limitations real estate was created by the standard buyer-broker agreement from the California Association of Realtors.

Another commonly used statute of limitation is the statute of limitations California DUI. Limitations depend on whether the DUI falls under a misdemeanor (1 year) or felony (3 years). Extreme cases that carry more than 8 years in prison have a six-year limitation. The longer limitations often result from cases involving injury to a person or injury to personal property. Civil court limitations can also come into play for statute of limitations California DUI when injury to a person or injury to personal property results in a civil action.

Statute of limitations California theft depends on the amount of time the defendant faces in prison. Thefts of smaller value may be misdemeanors, with a one-year limitation, or felonies, with a three-year limitation. Statute of limitations California theft has to be very severe to qualify for a six-year limitation.

How long is the statute of limitations for your case?

As each case is unique and several laws may come into play, it’s best to discuss the matter with a California attorney. Generally speaking, smaller offenses have shorter limits, while very serious offenses have long or no limits.

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