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Being suspected or accused of theft can be a harrowing experience, even if you have yet to be charged. Theft is a common and substantial criminal offense in California and is punishable by fines and even time behind bars depending on the severity of the crime. However, the police have a time limit to investigate the case and charge you with theft, known as the statute of limitations. If the police arrest and charge you with a theft crime after the statute of limitations has passed, the charges against you could be dismissed entirely.
If you suspect you are under investigation for theft in California, it is never too early to start preparing your defense. Partnering with a skilled California criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights and develop the best defense for the accusations against you. Your attorney will investigate every aspect of your case and advise you on the best course of action for your unique situation.
The Statute of Limitations for Theft Crimes in California
The statute of limitations for theft crimes depends on whether the crime you are accused of is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. If the crime is classified as a misdemeanor, the prosecutor must file charges within one year of the date that the offense was discovered. Some common misdemeanor theft crimes include:
- Petty Theft: The theft of any property valued at $950 or less.
- Shoplifting: The theft of property valued at $950 or less from a business while the business was open to customers.
- Receiving Stolen Property: Buying, selling, receiving, or concealing property known to be stolen.
If the crime you are accused of is a felony offense, the prosecutor has up to three years to file charges against you. The following are a few examples of common felony theft charges:
- Grand Theft: The theft of property valued at over $950 or a firearm of any value.
- Burglary in the First Degree: The act of unlawfully entering a residence with the intent to commit theft or any felony-level offense.
- Robbery: Taking another person’s property against their will under the threat or use of force.
If you are not arrested and the prosecutor fails to file charges against you within the time limit outlined in the statute of limitations, they cannot file them in the future. In other words, once the statute of limitations for the crime has expired, you cannot be legally charged for the theft in question.
Why Does California Have a Statute of Limitations for Theft?
The statute of limitations exists to protect the rights of those accused of crimes in California. Over time, critical pieces of evidence could be lost or destroyed, and witnesses may move away or forget what they saw. Therefore, it would be unfair to pursue charges against an individual suspected of theft after a certain amount of time has passed.
However, it is crucial to note that the time limit on the statute of limitations begins when the crime is discovered, regardless of when it was committed. This discovery rule makes it especially vital to seek the help of a seasoned attorney, as you may not know the exact date the statute of limitations for your case expires.
Partner with an Expert Theft Defense Lawyer in California
If you are under investigation for theft in California, you need a trusted criminal defense attorney on your side. Attorney Dod of Dod Law, APC, has 17 years of experience defending criminal cases and has a proven track record of providing his clients with top-notch legal representation. When you partner with Dod, you can have peace of mind knowing that your case is in the capable hands of a professional legal expert. To schedule a free case review, contact us today at (619) 814-5110 or through our contact form.