Is There a Statute of Limitations for DUI Charges in California?

August 2, 2019

The state must bring charges within a certain period of time after an arrest.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for DUI Charges in California?

In the legal world, the statute of limitations is the period of time that a party has to file a case. For criminal cases, the statute of limitations puts a time limit on how long a prosecutor can file a criminal charge after an incident occurred. Statutes of limitations are important to protect defendants against criminal charges that may be brought long after a crime allegedly occurred. In that time, evidence may disappear, a witness may forget what happened, and person’s overall ability to defend themselves is diminished. For this reason, due process requires that most crimes (other than some capital crimes, like homicide) have a statute of limitations.

In DUI cases, the statute of limitations depends on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. According to an experienced DUI attorney in Newport Beach, CA, misdemeanor charges must be commenced within one year of the date that the driving under the influence event happened. Felony DUI charges must be commenced within three years of the date that it occurred.

So what does it mean that the charge must be “commenced”? Here, it generally means that the case is started. This is doing by filing a complaint in a misdemeanor DUI case, or an indictment or information in a felony DUI case. Alternatively, the case could be commenced by properly issuing an arrest or bench warrant or when a suspect is arraigned on felony charges.

Determining whether a DUI is a felony or a misdemeanor for purposes of the statute of limitations requires examining the maximum punishment under the law. By looking at the maximum punishment — either one year or three years — you can determine whether it is a misdemeanor (one year statute of limitations) or a felony (three year statute of limitations). California law prohibits driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The law also forbids driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causing bodily injury to another person.

Typically, first, second and third offense DUIs are charged as misdemeanors, with some exceptions. The punishment for a misdemeanor DUI is up to 6 months in jail for a first offense and up to one year in jail for a second or third offense, plus a license suspension, fines, fees, mandatory alcohol education classes, and other penalties.

A felony DUI may be charged for fourth or greater DUI charges in a 10 year period. A prosecutor may also bring felony DUI charges against someone who had a prior felony DUI conviction within the past 10 years. Finally, a person who causes serious injury or death to another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be charged with felony DUI. The maximum punishment for felony DUI in California is three years in state prison; however, there may also be sentence enhancements.

If you have been charged with a DUI, a seasoned DUI attorney in Newport Beach, CA can work with you to defend. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Dan E. Chambers has the experience and knowledge to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Contact the Chambers Law Firm today at 855-397-0210 or info@orangecountyduifirm.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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