In the United States, we have what is called “criminal statutes of limitations.” The statute of limitations for a particular offense refers to the law which bars prosecutors from charging someone with a crime after a set number of years.
Essentially, if a crime was allegedly committed, state prosecutors can’t file criminal charges many years after the incident occurred because eyewitness memory and evidence naturally deteriorates over time, and this lack of evidence places the alleged offender at a disadvantage.
Not all crimes are controlled by a statute of limitations. Serious crimes, such as murder, sexual offenses against children, and kidnapping do not have a statute of limitations. Meaning, a person can be charged with one of these serious crimes even decades after the offense was committed.
What about driving under the influence (DUI) in California? Is there a statute of limitations for DUI, and if so, what is it?
What is the time limit for filing DUI charges?
Yes, there is a statute of limitations for DUI in California, but the statute of limitations for filing DUI charges depends on whether the offense is a misdemeanor or a felony DUI. The criminal statute of limitations in California are as follows:
- For misdemeanors, including misdemeanor DUI, the government has one year to file criminal charges against the suspect.
- For felonies, including felony DUI, the government has three years to file charges.
A California DUI is considered a “wobbler” offense, which means that depending on the facts of the case, it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. However, the majority of California DUIs are misdemeanors.
Typically, a DUI becomes a felony when it’s the defendant’s fourth DUI in 10 years, or when the DUI incident caused serious bodily injury or death. Given this information, you can probably guess whether your DUI case would be a misdemeanor or a felony.
To sum it up, the state has one year to file charges on a misdemeanor DUI and up to three years to file charges on a felony DUI.
If you were arrested for DUI in Orange County and the state has yet to file criminal charges, don’t get too comfortable. The prosecutor is likely working behind the scenes, getting prepared to file charges against you before the statute of limitations comes up!
Arrested for DUI? Get the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. on your side, before the DA tries to file official criminal charges against you. Call now!