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California Statute of Limitations

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Statute of Limitations CA- Summary

California’s statute of limitations establishes a deadline before which civil cases – such as lawsuits – must be filed in the state. In relation to criminal charges, it also prevents prosecutors from charging an individual with a crime after a specified period of time has passed. The statutes of limitations for different civil actions and crimes can vary from state to state, so read on for more information about how they apply in California. 

California Civil Statute of Limitations

California’s civil statute of limitations sets deadlines under which lawsuits and other civil actions must be filed in the state. These limits typically range from one – ten years, depending on the type of case or procedure, and the date or discovery of an incident is usually when time starts counting down. California’s civil statute of limitations largely corresponds with similar laws in every state. 

Be aware that if you fail to file your civil claim before the established deadline, the opposing party can use the statute of limitations in their defense and file a motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the time allotted to file it has already passed. Any legal claim will be lost forever once your case is dismissed. 

A summary of civil statutes of limitations in California:

Injury to PersonPersonal injury: 2 yrs. Civ. Proc. §335.1; False imprisonment: 1 yr. Civ. Proc. §340(c)
Libel/Slander1 yr. Civ. Proc. §340(c)
Fraud3 yrs. Civ. Proc. §338(d)
Injury to Personal Property3 yrs. Civ. Proc. §338(b), (c)
Professional MalpracticeLegal: 1 yr. from discovery, max. of 4 yrs. from the wrong Civ. Proc. §340.6; Medical: 1 yr. from discovery, 3 yrs. if injury known Civ. Proc. §340.5; Veterinary: 1 yr. for injury or death of animal Civ. Prop. §340(c)
Trespass3 yrs. Civ. Proc. §338(b)
Collection of Rents4 yrs. Civ. Proc. §337.2
ContractsWritten: 4 yrs. §337; Oral: 2 yrs. Civ. Proc. §339
Collection of Debt on Account4 yrs. (book and stated accounts) Civ. Proc. §337
Judgments10 yrs. Civ. Proc. §337.5

State laws related to filing lawsuits can change often. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a California attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

California Criminal Statute of Limitations

California’s criminal statute of limitations sets time limits on the filing of criminal charges in the state. As it is in most states, California does not place a deadline on bringing charges for crimes considered especially heinous, including murder, any crime punishable by life in prison, and embezzlement of public funds. The law says prosecutors can charge someone with one of these crimes no matter how much time has passed. 

Felonies punishable by eight or more years in prison have a six-year statute of limitations, and other felonies punishable by imprisonment have a three-year limit. The time limit within which criminal charges may be brought begins once the crime is identified, or should have been identified.

For most misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is one year in California. However, if the crime was committed against a minor under 14, the state has three years to bring charges. In cases of sexual exploitation committed by a physician or therapist, the statute of limitations is two years.

A summary of criminal statutes of limitations in California:

Code SectionPen. §§799 et seq.
FeloniesMurder, crimes punishable by death or a life sentence, embezzlement of public funds: none; crimes punishable by 8 or more years in prison: 6 yrs.; crimes punishable by imprisonment: 3 yrs.
MisdemeanorsMost misdemeanors: 1 yr.; misdemeanor against a minor under 14: 3 yrs.; crime of sexual exploitation committed by physician or therapist: 2 yrs.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not RunIf an alleged criminal is in hiding or out of state, max. extension of 3 yrs.; statutory periods begin once a crime is or should have been identified

State laws are always subject to change. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a California attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

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