California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
DUI » What Is the Statute of Limitations to File a DUI Charge?
A misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence (DUI) in California must be commenced within one year of the date it occurred. A felony DUI charge must be commenced within three years of the date it occurred.
Commenced for statute of limitations purposes means when one of the following events takes place:
RULE: To determine whether an offense is a misdemeanor or a felony for statute of limitation purposes the maximum punishment for the offense is first examined.
In general, the maximum punishment for a DUI in California is based upon:
The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor DUI in California is:
The maximum penalty for a felony DUI in California is:
The statute of limitations is set out in California Penal Code sections 801 and 802. Applying these guidelines, the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor DUI is one year, and the statute of limitations for a felony DUI is three years.
To determine the statute of limitations for a criminal charge in California you first look at the maximum punishment under the law.
Important: A Statute of Limitations is a law that forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime if it was committed a specified number of years ago.
Under California Vehicle Code 23152, it is unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Under Vehicle Code 23153, it is unlawful for a person to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs AND to cause bodily injury to another person.
First, second, and third time DUI’s are considered misdemeanors (exceptions below). The maximum punishment for misdemeanor DUI‘s in California is:
Felony DUI’s can occur when an accused:
The maximum punishment for felony DUI‘s in California is:
Please note, sentence enhancements are disregarded in determining the maximum punishment for statute of limitations purposes. For example, with felony DUI’s there is often a sentence enhancement claiming great bodily injury OR injuring multiple victims.
Per Penal Code 802(a), prosecution for most misdemeanors must be commenced within one year after commission of the offense.
Per California Penal Code 801, prosecution for an offense punishable by a maximum of three years prison must be commenced within three years after commission of the offense.
Applying these rules, the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor DUI in California is one year, and the statute of limitations for a felony DUI is three years.
Please note, a felony DUI, in most cases, is considered a wobbler which means that it can also be filed as a misdemeanor. The statute of limitations is still three years in those cases. (See People v. Mincey (1992) 2 Cal. 4th 408)
In California, the decision to bring criminal charges rests exclusively within the discretion of:
A criminal prosecution is generally commenced by submission of the following to a filing deputy at a district attorney’s office:
Based on consideration of this information and application of existing law, the filing deputy then decides to do one of three things:
A statute of limitations is a law passed to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings must begin or be barred.
Important: A Statute of Limitations is necessary to fairly protect defendants.
Although most crimes have a statute of limitations, not all crimes do. For example, there is no statute of limitations for murder.
Due Process under the Constitution requires fairness. With the passage of time,
NOTE: Statute of Limitations issues are a complicated and ever-changing area of the law. Always contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for the most up to date and accurate information.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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