The statute of limitations imposes a time limit on filing criminal charges. If a charge is filed once the statute has passed, the defendant can get the charge dismissed. Since driving under the influence (DUI) can be filed as misdemeanor or felony charges, a statute of limitation is imposed on it. Read on to learn about the DUI statute of limitations in California.
Purpose of Statutes of Limitation
Imposing a legal limit on filing a criminal charge protects the legal rights of defendants in civil and criminal cases. The criminal court recognizes that a defendant is disadvantaged after a certain amount of time has passed. A limitation period expects the prosecutor and plaintiff to pursue a criminal case with a certain level of diligence.
Statute of Limitations for DUI Charges
The statute limitation on California DUI or DWI cases vary depending on whether it was charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. A misdemeanor DUI charge in California has a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the incident, while a felony DUI offense has a three-year limitation. Several exceptions make litigation complicated, so it’s best to consult with a criminal defense lawyer if you have any concerns regarding the statute of limitations.
How DUI Statutes of Limitations are Determined
The California Penal Code states that prosecution for offenses not punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison should be commenced within a year after the offense was committed. To determine statutes of limitations, commenced means that one of the following events has taken place:
- A complaint is filed charging a misdemeanor;
- An indictment is filed in felony cases;
- The accused is arraigned on a complaint charging them with a felony; and
- A warrant is properly issued.
As such, the statute of limitations for a misdemeanor charge for driving while intoxicated is one year after the date of the incident. This applies to a first offense DUI, as well as to repeat offense up to the third DUI offenses.
Note that enhanced penalties are disregarded in determining maximum punishment. Talk to DUI attorneys if you need help determining the statute of limitations for a particular case.
However, a drunk driver that violated the California Vehicle Code by causing injury will face a longer period of limitation since this offense is a wobbler case. Since the maximum punishment for an individual charged with DUI that caused an injury is imprisonment, its statute of limitations is three years.
Note that the statute of limitations isn’t applicable on drunk driving cases already in warrant status. If you’re considering getting a dismissal using the statute of limitations defense, speak with DUI defense lawyers to discuss your case.
Filing DUI as a Felony or Misdemeanor
In California DUI laws, bringing criminal charges is exclusively at the discretion of the grand jury, district attorney, and prosecuting attorneys. After the prosecution is commenced by submitting the necessary paperwork to the district attorney’s office, the filing deputy evaluates the information and decides to either:
- file the case as a felony;
- file the case as a misdemeanor; or
- reject the case or return it for further investigation.
Hire Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you were arrested for DUI and are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, it’s important to have legal representation who can help prepare the best defense for you. Contact the Law Offices of Marc Grossman to get in touch with a DUI defense attorneywho’s knowledgeable in driving laws and can fight for you. Call us today and schedule a free consultation!