Statute of Limitations

California’s Statute of Limitations Relating to Sex Offenses

A statute of limitations is a certain time allowed by law that a prosecuting agency has to commence prosecution, which means that the prosecution of a criminal case will be barred if the case isn’t filed within the statutory period. The statute of limitations varies, depending on the maximum sentence of the underlying sex crime, and on the specific facts of the case. When determining which statute applies, the law looks to the maximum punishment allowed by law, regardless of the punishment that is actually sought or imposed, and enhancements do not factor into that calculation. If more than one time period applies to the same offense, the controlling time will be the period that expires last.

An experienced sex crime defense attorney is aware of the statute of limitations for each offense, and will immediately move to dismiss a case that is beyond the specified period. The exceptional attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm pride themselves on their thorough reviews of every case, which allows them to determine the defenses that are most likely to ensure favorable outcomes for their clients.

Although there is quite a bit of variation, the general statutory schedule relating to California’s sex offenses is as follows:

The prosecution of a felony that is punishable by eight or more years in state prison (for example, most instances of rape, some crimes relating to obscene materials, and certain acts of sodomy or oral copulation) must typically be commenced within six years of the offense. However, if the crime is a felony offense that requires sex offender registration, pursuant to California’s Penal Code 290, the prosecution must be commenced within ten years of the offense. With respect to these crimes, an additional extension applies when DNA evidence is involved. The prosecution of one of these felonies in which DNA conclusively establishes the identity of a suspect may be commenced within one year of that finding if the offense was committed on or after January 1, 2001, and biological evidence collected in connection with the offense is analyzed for DNA type no later than two years after the date of the offense.

If the alleged felony offense is for rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child or oral copulation, and the victim was younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offense, the prosecution may be commenced at any time prior to the victim’s 28th birthday. Similarly, the statute of limitations may be extended by one year (if necessary) when a person of any age makes a report to a California law enforcement agency that he or she was the victim of rape, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, oral copulation, continuous sexual abuse or forced penetration as a minor. This extension may take place if the generally applicable statute of limitations expired, if the crime involved substantial sexual conduct, and if there is corroborating evidence to support the allegation. It must be noted that if the person reporting is 21 years old at the time of the report, the corroborating evidence must be clear and convincing.

If the charged felony offense is for employing a minor to pose for or perform obscene sexual acts, the prosecution must be commenced within 10 years of the date of production of the pornographic material.

Finally, the prosecution of misdemeanor sex crimes must typically be commenced within one year of the offense.

For more information on the statute of limitations concerning a specific sex crime, contact the knowledgeable and experienced California sex crime defense attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm today for a free consultation and for unsurpassed legal representation.