California Penal Code 800 PC gives prosecutors six years to press criminal charges for most crimes carrying a prison term of eight years or more. This six-year clock starts running after the alleged crime is committed. But there is no statute of limitations at all for the most serious crimes that carry long prison terms such as murder and rape.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
PC 800 Except as provided in Section 799, prosecution for an offense punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for eight years or more or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for eight years or more shall be commenced within six years after commission of the offense.
Under California Penal Code 800 PC, prosecutors generally have a six-year statute of limitations to bring criminal charges against suspects facing charges that carry at least eight years in prison. So if six years pass from the time the crime allegedly occurred, then the D.A. can no longer press criminal charges against the suspect.
There are exceptions to PC 800. Prosecutors can bring charges at any time when a conviction would carry either:
- the death penalty; or
- life in prison without parole.
There is also no statute of limitations to bring charges for:
- embezzlement of public money; or
- certain felony sex crimes like rape, sodomy, and lewd acts with a minor.
The purpose of statutes of limitations is to encourage prosecutors to bring charges as soon as possible after the alleged offense occurs. As time goes by, memories and evidence fade, and it will be more difficult for the D.A. to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.1
- California Penal Code 800 PC – Offenses punishable by imprisonment for eight years or more. See also: People v. Sedillo (Cal. App. 2d Dist. Apr. 8, 2015), 235 Cal. App. 4th 1037, 185 Cal. Rptr. 3d 907; People v. Simmons (Cal. App. 3d Dist. Sept. 27, 2012), 210 Cal. App. 4th 778, 148 Cal. Rptr. 3d 554.