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What Does ‘Tolling’ the Statute of Limitations Mean in CA?

Posted in Criminal Defense on December 10, 2020

Most people have heard of the term “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations is important for both civil and criminal cases, and this refers to the amount of time that an action can be brought against another person. In a criminal case, the statute of limitations refers to the amount of time that prosecutors have to pursue charges against a person who allegedly commits a crime. While statutes of limitation are generally rigid and prescribed by law, there are various circumstances where the plaintiff in the case can prevent the dismissal of a case by asking for the statute of limitations to be “tolled.”

Understanding the statutes of limitation

Statutes of limitation are crucial, and they vary from crime to crime. For example, the crime of robbery in California must be prosecuted within three to six years of the offense being committed, depending on the particular factors related to the situation. Once the particular time frame is up for an offense, the person who allegedly committed the offense is pretty much off the hook.

This may seem ridiculous to some people, but there are good reasons for these statutes of limitation. These limits are passed to give law enforcement officials and prosecutors the incentive to act quickly and efficiently and to protect everybody involved in the case and avoid confusion that may arise. In particular, if a case is premised on eyewitness testimony, memories begin to fade, and evidence becomes less reliable as time goes on.

There are various crimes in California that do not have a statute of limitation attached. For example, prosecutors have no time limit for bringing murder or rape charges against somebody.

Tolling the statute of limitations in California

When a statute of limitation is “tolled,” this means that it is paused. There are various events or circumstances that will allow for the tolling of the statute of limitations. In general, the statute of limitations can be tolled if one of the parties in the case is under a legal disability and thereby lacks the legal capacity to act by the time the statute of limitations has been reached.

For example, a person who is under the age of 18 or somebody with a mental illness will be regarded as being incapable of initiating a legal action on their own behalf. The statute of limitations will be told until after the disability has been removed. This could include a child reaching the age of 18 or when a person regains the mental capacity to pursue legal action on their own behalf.

Tolling of the statute of limitations can also occur if the defendant in the case becomes a fugitive and flees the jurisdiction where they committed the crime. For example, if a person robs a bank in Sacramento and subsequently flees to another state or even out of the country to avoid being caught, the statute of limitations will be paused until they are caught and brought back to California.

Work with a skilled defense attorney

If you or somebody you care about has been charged with a crime or is under investigation for a crime, seek assistance from a skilled attorney as soon as possible. A Riverside criminal attorney will be able to help you understand the statutes of limitation related to your case and whether or not you can still be charged with the offense you are facing.