Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

What can I do so no charges get filed? Is my case barred by the law from being prosecuted?

Posted on: May 21, 2007 at 12:26 a.m.

A defense lawyer may convince a prosecutor ("filing DA") from not pursuing criminal charges. A Filing DA reviews the police reports, and investigation submitted to him by the arresting police agency. If the Filing DA decides no charges will be filed, the case is referred to as a "reject." There are many reasons why a case is rejected, including problems of proof, interests of justice, or a non-desirous victim. Early intervention by a defense attorney often makes this happen. However, the prosecutor may always revisit the decision not to file criminal charges if the "Statute of Limitations" period has not expired. So, if say in neighbor dispute, one neighbor continue to harrass the victim, the prosecutor may choose to file charges over the first incident despite the initial decision to reject the case. Every criminal offense has a statute of limitations period that is set out by the Penal Code. In simple terms, the less serious the crime, the shorter the statute -- in other words, the Prosecutor has less time to decide on filing criminal charges. In misdemeanor cases, California law provides the statute is 1 year; in felonies, the statutes is 3 years or more depending on how serious the crime is. Once the Statute of Limitations expires, the offense cannot be prosecuted in court (with one exception, murder cases have no limitation - that is why cold case DNA cases are prosecuted sometime 10, 20, or 30 years later.)

Tagged as: california criminal laws, faq


ron J. on June 16, 2007 at 4:14 p.m. wrote:

I think I understand now. If the crime was reported to the police, for instance a car theft, it is at that point that the statute of limitations begins not necessarily when the car is recovered or an arrest is made. If I got it right then thanks very much for your clarification. It was very helpful as I know many people are confused about this principle

Law Blog on June 16, 2007 at 2:03 p.m. wrote:

The Statute of Limitations is a technical but very significant legal issue. A crime may be committed, say an embezzlement from a company by a bookkeeper, but the owner of the company may not be aware the theft is occuring, or has occured. The Statute of Limitations does not begin to run until after the owner realizes he is being victimized. A famous California decision, People v. Zamora, addresses this point of law. After this court ruling, prosecutors have to file 'Zamora' allegations to prove why the Statute was tolled, or did not begin to run, in the case. In other words, if the crime happened, the statute ran, and then the victim finds out he has been defrauded, the prosecutor must prove in court why the statute was tolled (ie. lack of knowledge by victim) for the case to move forward.

ron J. on June 16, 2007 at 11:45 a.m. wrote:

I'm just a little confused. On one hand you seem to say that the statute of limitations is a restraint on the time allowed the prosecution to FILE charges. This could mean from the time the police discover evidence not from the time the crime was originally committed. But then on the other hand you seem to suggest that the statute of limitations IS from the time the crime was committed. Did I miss something?

Eric T. on June 5, 2007 at 9:03 p.m. wrote:

In regards to Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol, what are your rights if you are pulled over by a police officer? Must you take a breath test and/or their sobriety tests? Can you refuse of any of these tests? What if you feel that you have been targeted by the police as you leave a bar or club? Can police officers station themselves outside of these facilities? What if you have taken medication and feel drowsy, can you still recieve the same punishment as if you took an illegal drug?

Law Blog on May 24, 2007 at 4:36 p.m. wrote:

A crime that is not brought to court within the statute of limitations cannot be prosecuted. A recent example of this can be found in the L.A. District Attorney's Office prosecution of priests who sexually abused minors. Most these cases fell outside the statute of limitations, and thus the prosecutions could not move forward.

Law Blog on May 24, 2007 at 4:34 p.m. wrote:

The statute of limitations in many sex crime cases is 8 years, after the date of the offense. However, in cases where the alleged victim is under age, the statute is extended to a year after the reporting of the incident to law enforcement. So if an 18 year old comes to the police station ten years after she or he was molested, the police can still seek criminal charges so long as they take no longer than 1 year to bring them to court.

Law Blog on May 24, 2007 at 4:29 p.m. wrote:

All direct and circumstantial evidence (witnesses, defendant statements, fingerprints, weapons, etc) is used in a jury trial, whether it is a DUI, rape, or murder prosecution. If a Defendant is acquitted however, then he cannot be reprosecuted because of the Double Jeopardy protection in the United States Constitutions. So if new evidence arises afterwards, it cannot be used. Thus prosecutors often wait until they have sufficient evidence before indicting or filing a criminal complaint against a defendant. This is problematic area for prosecutors at times. For example a defendant may flee after being released from custody, because prosecutors chose not to file charges after his arrest due to insufficient evidence.

Josilin on May 22, 2007 at 10:27 p.m. wrote:

What if new evidence comes up besides DNA in a murder trial? Could they still choose to prosecute if after the period has past some convicting evidence arose?

Anna Kvorning on May 22, 2007 at 4:07 p.m. wrote:

I was wondering what the Statute of Limitations is in case of rape? As it is often the case that the victim actually knows the offender (it might be a family member, friend or acquaintance) she/he will maybe choose not to prosecute because they feel sorry for the offender or guilty for causing them trouble. It can also be that the victim is very young and insecure when it happens and thus too afraid of the consequences from prosecuting their offender - or they might just be traumatized about having to face him again during a lawsuit. What are their possibilities of reopening the case later in their lives?

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