California Penal Code 801.1 PC is the California statute that governs when a prosecutor must file charges for certain sex crimes.
Under PC 801.1, prosecutors must file charges for certain sex-related felonies:
- By the victim’s 40th birthday, if the victim was under 18 years of age when the offense occurred; or,
- Within 10 years of the offense, in cases involving adult victims.
Some examples of when prosecutors can and cannot file charges involving specified sex offenses include:
- A prosecutor can file charges in 2025 for an offense involving an adult victim that took place in 2018.
- A prosecutor cannot file charges in 2030 for an offense involving an adult victim that took place in 2018.
- In a sex crime case with a 16-year-old victim, prosecutors can file charges twenty years after the fact when the victim is 36 years old.
Penal Code 801.1 PC is applicable to such sex-related felonies as:
- Rape, per Penal Code 261 PC;
- Sodomy, per Penal Code 286 PC; and,
- Lewd acts with a minor child, per Penal Code 288 PC.
There are two exceptions to the laws in Penal Code 801.1. Prosecutors can file charges of a sex crime, even after the time limitations within PC 801.1 have expired, if:
- There is independent corroborating evidence, per Penal Code 803(f)(1); or,
- The charges are filed in accordance with the DNA exception rule, per Penal Code 803(g).
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. The Legal Definition of “Limitation Period” for Certain California Sex Offenses, per PC 801.1
- 2. Sex Offenses where Penal Code 801.1 Applies
- 3. Statute of Limitations in California Criminal Cases
- 4. Exceptions to California Penal Code 801.1 PC
1. The Legal Definition of “Limitation Period” for Certain California Sex Offenses, per PC 801.1
Penal Code 801.1 sets forth two specific limitation periods for specified sex offenses. In these cases:
- Prosecutors must file charges before the victim’s 40th birthday, provided that the victim was under the age of 18 when the offense took place; and/or,
- Prosecutors must file charges before 10 years have passed from the date of the offense, for cases involving an adult victim.1
If the State wishes to file charges after the above time periods have expired, it is statutorily barred from doing so (unless an exception in section (4)).
2. Sex Offenses where Penal Code 801.1 Applies
California Penal Code 801.1(a) provides the 40th birthday limitation period for sex offenses when the victim was under the age of 18 when the offense was committed. This section specifically states that it applies to the following sex crimes:
- Rape, per PC 261;
- Sodomy, per PC 286:
- Lewd acts with a minor child, per PC 288;
- Oral copulation with a minor, per PC 288(a);
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child, per PC 288.5; and,
- Penetration by a foreign object, per PC 289.2
Penal Code 801.1(b) provides the 10-year limitation period for sex offenses involving adult victims. This section states that it applies to those felony offenses listed in California Penal Code 290(c).
Penal Code 290 is California’s Sex Offender Registration Act. Subsection (c) makes the Act applicable to the above listed sex crimes. It also includes additional felonies, like:
PC 801.1(b), therefore, applies to those felonies listed in PC 801.1(a) and those felonies included within the State’s Sex Offender Registration Act.
3. Statute of Limitations in California Criminal Cases
California Penal Code 801.1 is an example of a “statute of limitations.”
A “statute of limitations,” also referred to as a “limitation period,” is a statute that defines the time limits within which the State of California can lawfully charge a person for a criminal offense.
Under Penal Code 801.1, prosecutors cannot file charges for certain sex offenses if the statutory limitation period expires.
Statute of limitations exist for both California criminal cases and civil cases.
4. Exceptions to California Penal Code 801.1 PC
There are two exceptions to PC 801.1. Prosecutors can file charges, even after the time limits within PC 801.1 have expired, if:
- There is independent corroborating evidence, per PC 803(f)(1); or,
- The DNA Exception rule applies, per PC 803(g).
4.1. Independent Corroborating Evidence – PC 803(f)(1)
Penal Code 803(f)(1) states that California may file charges, of a sexual offense, within one year after a person makes a report which alleges that, while a minor, she was the victim of “substantial sexual conduct.”3
The following conditions must apply for PC 803(f)(1) to work:
- The limitations period within PC 801.1 has expired;
- An offense occurred that involved “substantial sexual conduct,” which includes sexual penetration by an unknown object;
- There is independent evidence, other than the opinion of a mental health professional, that corroborates the victim’s allegation; and,
- If the victim was 21 years of age or older at the time of the report, the independent evidence clearly corroborates the victim’s allegation.4
4.2. The DNA Exception Rule – PC 803(g)
The DNA exception rule applies in cases of sexual penetration by a foreign object when a person is deemed a suspect via DNA evidence.
If applicable, the rule allows the State to file a charge of a sexual offense within one year of the date in which the DNA evidence establishes a person as a suspect.5
The DNA rule will apply if the following conditions are met:
- The offense was committed prior to January 1, 2001, and DNA evidence collected was analyzed no later than January 1, 2004; or,
- The offense was committed on or after January 1, 2001, and DNA evidence collected was analyzed within two years of the offense.6
For additional help…
If the statute of limitations may have expired in your case, under Penal Code 801.1, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
- California Penal Code 801.1(a) and (b) PC. California Penal Code 801.1 reads as follows:(1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, prosecution for a felony offense described in Section 261, 286, 288, 288.5, 288a, or 289, or Section 289.5, as enacted by Chapter 293 of the Statutes of 1991 relating to penetration by an unknown object, that is alleged to have been committed when the victim was under 18 years of age, may be commenced any time prior to the victim’s 40th birthday.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall only apply to crimes that were committed on or after January 1, 2015, or for which
the statute of limitations that was in effect prior to January 1, 2015, has not run as of January 1, 2015.
Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, if either subdivision (a) of this
section or subdivision (b) of Section 799 does not apply, prosecution for a felony offense described in subdivision (c) of Section 290 shall be commenced within 10 years after commission of the offense.
- All of these crimes are felonies, as opposed to California misdemeanors. California Penal Code 801.1 PC only applies to certain sex offenses that are felonies under California law. See also California Penal Code 801.1(a) and (b) PC.
- California Penal Code 803(f)(1) PC.
- See same.
- California Penal Code 803(g) PC.
- See same.