If you were recently arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Orange County, or anywhere else in California, you may be wondering, “How long does the prosecutor have to file charges against me?” This is a valid question indeed, especially because by law, the state has to file DUI charges within a specified timeframe – this is called the statute of limitations. If the state fails to file DUI charges within California’s statute of limitations, it loses the right to file charges permanently.
How long does the state have to file DUI charges against you? It depends on whether you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI; the deadline is much longer for a felony DUI.
- Misdemeanor DUI: The statute of limitations is one year.
- Felony DUI: The statute of limitations is three (3) years.
In reality, by far the majority of California DUIs are misdemeanors. DUI defendants enter felony territory when it’s their fourth DUI within a 10-year time period, or when they seriously injured or killed another driver or passenger, a pedestrian, a bicyclist, or even one of their own passengers while driving under the influence.
Please note that in California DUI is a wobbler offense. That means it can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case. If yours was a simple first-time DUI and nobody was injured or killed, you should be facing misdemeanor charges and the prosecutor would have up to one year to file charges against you.
Haven’t Heard From the Courts?
If you were recently arrested for DUI and you still haven’t heard back from the court, you may be concerned. Can you drive? Should you enroll in AA classes? Will you be arrested and hauled off to jail? Did the District Attorney forget about you? Did your case slip through the cracks? These are all valid concerns, which is why it’s important to speak to an experienced DUI attorney. You need sound legal advice.
We’ll tell you right now that just because you haven’t heard from the court, it doesn’t mean they aren’t building a case against you behind the scenes, because more than likely they are and it’s only a matter of time before you hear from the prosecutor. Remember, he or she has up to 12 months to file charges against you, and it’s better to be proactive than reactive.