Something that people may not realize, is that there is actually a time limit for when a person can be charged with a specific crime. This time limit is referred to as a statute of limitations. This is done as a way to help protect people from being accused of things they did years ago. The practice comes from ancient Greece where a statute of limitations of 5 years was placed on all crimes save for homicide, for which there was no time limit.
The practice is still used in modern law today to help prevent abuse from occurring. However, instead of a flat 5 year limitation across all crimes, specific types of crimes have different statutes of limitations.
Why Statutes of Limitations Exist
Statute of limitations exist to protect people from prosecution for crimes that happened years ago. There are 3 main reasons for this:
• Waiting too long to file a claim can prevent a defendant from finding evidence needed to disprove a claim.
• Cases that have been dormant for a long time have a tendency to be more cruel than just.
Statutes of limitations exists to keep the legal process fair for everyone.
California Statute of Limitation Laws
There is no set limit for a statute of limitations, and they often vary from state to state. On top of being different in each state, the lengths of the limits vary depending on the crime in question.
Here in California, some of the more common crimes that have a 1 year statute of limitations include:
• Malpractice, after it has been discovered.
• Asbestos exposure, after it has been discovered.
• Victim of a felony, after the conviction.
Common 2 year statute of limitations crimes include:
• Wrongful death.
• False imprisonment.
• Breach of oral contract.
Common 3 year statute of limitation crimes include:
• Fraud, after it has been discovered.
Common 4 year statute of limitation crimes include:
Common 10 year statute of limitations crimes include:
Statutes of Limitations Exist for a Reason
It is important to remember that the law is supposed to be fair to everyone, including the people being accused of crimes. Waiting too long to accuse someone of a crime allows evidence to be destroyed, witnesses to disappear, and memories to fade. This can all make it very difficult for a defendant to properly defend themselves.
What do you think of statutes of limitations, and California’s different lengths? Do you think some crimes should have longer or shorter lengths?