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Is there a statute of limitations for a probation violation in California?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jul 16, 2019 | 0 Comments

statute of limitations

There is a statute of limitations for a probation violation in California.

The statute of limitations expires the moment when a party's probation period ends. This means that a probation violation cannot be charged if it gets discovered after a person's probation period is no longer active.

Note that a probation violation occurs once a probationer violates any term or condition of his probation.

If a violation does occur, then a judge may:

  • revoke and terminate the person's probation (and make the probationer serve out his suspended jail or prison sentence), or
  • place the probationer back on probation, but subject to tougher probation conditions.

Like probation violations, most crimes in California have a statute of limitations.

While the majority of misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of one year, California Penal Code 801 PC says that felonies have a SOL of three years.

Statute of limitations exist to help ensure fairness for defendants.

Is there a statute of limitations for probation violations under California law?

There is a statute of limitations for a probation violation in California.

California Penal Code 1203.3 allows the court to revoke, modify, or terminate a party's probation, but only while it is active. This means that the statute of limitations for a probation violation expires the moment when a party's probation period ends. In other words, a probation violation cannot be charged if it gets discovered after a person's probation period is no longer active.

All probation violation charges must be filed during a defendant's probation period.

When exactly does a probation violation occur?

A probation violation occurs once a probationer violates any term or condition of his probation.

Note that California Penal Code 1203.2a PC authorizes the arrest of any probationer if there is probable cause to believe he committed an offense or violated any term or condition of his probation.

Once a probationer is arrested and brought before the court, the judge may do one of two things. These are either:

  1. release the probationer from custody, or
  2. revoke and terminate the party's probation.

The judge determines what action to take during a probation violation hearing.

What happens following a probation violation?

If a probation violation does occur, then a judge may:

  • revoke and terminate the person's probation (and make the probationer serve out his suspended jail or prison sentence), or
  • place the probationer back on probation, but subject to tougher probation conditions.

As to the first situation, note that Under Penal Code 1203.2c, if a probation is revoked and terminated, and a probationer's sentence had been suspended, the court can order the probationer to serve out the suspended sentence (i.e., place the probationer in jail or prison).

Please note that in lieu of a sentence, the court may order the probationer to:

  • the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, or
  • the Division of Juvenile Facilities.

What are some common probation conditions?

Some common conditions in misdemeanor probation include that the defendant:

  • pay fines and/or victim restitution,
  • participate in individual or group therapy,
  • complete community service or Caltrans roadside work,
  • seek gainful employment, and
  • be subject to a restraining order (for offenses involving California domestic violence crimes).

Felony probation often includes conditions like the following:

  • meetings with your probation officer as often as required, generally once a month,
  • payment of restitution,
  • participation in individual or group therapy,
  • submission to drug testing, in cases of certain drug crimes in California,
  • performance of community service or community labor,
  • agreement to submit to peace officer searches of your person or property with or without a warrant (referred to as "search conditions"), and
  • compliance with stay away orders not to harass victims, in cases of felony violations of California Penal Code 273.5 pc corporal injury on a spouse and other offenses.

Like probation violations, do California crimes have a statute of limitations?

There is a statute of limitations for most crimes in California.

While the majority of misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of one year, California Penal Code 801 PC says that felonies have a SOL of three years.

But note that not all crimes have a statute of limitations. Under California Penal Code 799 PC, charges of the following crimes can be brought against a person at any time:

  • offenses punishable by death;
  • offenses punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for life without the possibility of parole; and,
  • embezzlement of public money.

What is the discovery rule?

The Discovery Rule is used to determine when the statutory period for bringing criminal charges begins. The rule says that the statute of limitations clock begins to run when an offense is discovered. So, for example, a person may commit a misdemeanor (with a one year statute of limitations period) on January 1, 2019. If authorities do not learn of the crime until January 1, 2020, then they have until January 1, 2021 to bring charges.

Why does the law impose a statute of limitations period?

Statute of limitations exist to help ensure fairness for defendants. Evidence often gets lost or destroyed with the passage of time. Witnesses to crimes may also move after several years, or, they may no longer recall certain facts that took place. The result is that it would be unfair to pursue criminal charges against a person after a certain period of time has passed.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

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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