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Statutes of Limitations for California Sex Crimes - Penal Code 801.1 PC

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Aug 14, 2023

Statutes of limitations are a cornerstone of our legal system that sets the maximum duration during which legal proceedings may be initiated following an alleged offense.

This principle upholds justice by ensuring that potential defendants are not indefinitely exposed to prosecution and that convictions are based on evidence that has not been compromised by time.

Statutes of Limitations for California Sex Crimes - Penal Code 801.1 PC
Penal Code 801.1 PC is the statute defining when a prosecutor must file certain sex crimes.

California Penal Code 801.1 PC is the statute that governs when a prosecutor must file charges for certain sex crimes. For example, prosecutors must file charges for certain sex-related felonies by the victim's 40th birthday if they were under 18 when the crime occurred or within ten years in cases involving adult victims.

PC 801.1 says, “(a) (1) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, prosecution for a felony offense described in Section 261, 286, 287, 288, 288.5, or 289, or former Section 288a, or Section 289.5, as enacted by Chapter 293 of the Statutes of 1991 relating to penetration by an unknown object, that is alleged to have been committed when the victim was under 18 years of age, may be commenced any time prior to the victim's 40th birthday.

(2) Paragraph (1) shall only apply to crimes that were committed on or after January 1, 2015, or for which the statute of limitations that was in effect prior to January 1, 2015, has not run as of January 1, 2015.

(b) Notwithstanding any other limitation of time described in this chapter, if either subdivision (a) of this section or subdivision (b) of Section 799 does not apply, prosecution for a felony offense described in subdivision (c) of Section 290 shall be commenced within ten years after commission of the offense.” Let's review this law further below.

Are There Different Statutes of Limitations?

Yes. In the State of California, the statute of limitations may differ according to the severity of the crime—and certain crimes have no statute of limitations.

California Statutes of Limitations
There are different statute of limitations in California based on the severity of the sex crime.

The laws concerning sex crimes in California are particularly stringent to reflect the gravity of these offenses—and therefore, the statutes of limitations tend to be longer for these crimes than for others.

In California, different sex offenses carry differing limitation periods based on their severity and the circumstances surrounding them. These statutes attempt to balance the rights of the defendant with the rights of the victims, who may or may not be able to press charges in the months or years following the crime.

Specifically, felony sex crimes in California come under one of three statutes of limitations:

  • Sex crimes with a 10-year statute of limitations;
  • Sex crimes against minor victims that are prosecutable until the victim's 40th birthday; and
  • Sex crimes for which the statute of limitations has been removed.

Misdemeanor Sex Crimes

Generally speaking, the statutes of limitations for misdemeanor sex crimes (at least against adults) are shorter and less stringent—even for those crimes requiring registration as a sex offender. For example, for an act of Penal Code 243.4 PC misdemeanor sexual battery, the statute of limitations is only two years.

Ten-Year Statute of Limitation

Generally speaking, most sex crimes against adult victims carry a 10-year statute of limitations, which means prosecutors must file criminal charges against the defendant within ten years of the completion of the alleged crime.

The sex offenses for which this statute applies encompass most sex offenses that require registration as a sex offender AND do not qualify for the longer statutes of limitation. These offenses include, but are not limited to:

Sex Crimes Against Minor Victims (by Victim's 40th Birthday)

For certain sex crimes committed against victims who were under 18 years old at the time of the offense, the law provides an exception.

In these instances, the statute of limitations extends until the victim reaches their 40th birthday, thereby empowering victims to come forward who were too young to know they had a voice at the time of their victimization.

This extended provision applies to specific sex crimes before Jan. 1, 2015. The list includes, but is not limited to:

Sex Crimes with No Statute of Limitation

The landscape of sex crime legislation in California has significantly changed in recent years, reflecting evolving societal attitudes towards these offenses.

One landmark development was the signing into law of the Justice for Victims Act, also known as Senate Bill 813, in 2016. This law is now codified in Penal Code 799(b)(1) PC.

This transformative piece of legislation eliminates the statute of limitations for several sex crimes, thereby allowing for prosecution at any time. These include the following:

  • Penal Code 261 PC - Rape;
  • Penal Code 264.1 PC - Rape in concert (gang rape);
  • Penal Code 288.5 PC - Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Importantly, this law applies to crimes committed after January 1, 2017, and those for which the statute of limitations had not expired.

The introduction of this law represents a significant shift in the legal landscape, extending the window of opportunity for certain victims of sex crimes to seek justice.

By removing time constraints, this legislation acknowledges the often complex and protracted nature of the healing and reporting process for victims of sexual abuse and assault.

What Are the Statute of Limitations Exceptions?

California law allows for two exceptions in which prosecutors may file criminal charges for sex crimes even after the statute of limitations has expired. These include the following:

  • Independent corroborating evidence rule defined under Penal Code 803(f)(1) PC: Prosecutors may file charges within one year after a victim comes forward claiming "substantial sexual conduct" from the defendant if there is independent corroborating evidence to that effect, other than an opinion from a mental health professional, the victim was 21 or older when the report was made, and the evidence clearly corroborates the victim's allegation;
  • DNA exception defined under Penal Code 803(g) PC: In cases of sexual penetration with a foreign object, prosecutors may file charges within one year of DNA evidence establishing the defendant as a suspect. This rule only applies for crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 2001, where the DNA was analyzed within two years, or before Jan. 1, 2001, where the DNA was analyzed no later than Jan. 1, 2004.

Suppose the statute of limitations has expired in your sex crime case defined under Penal Code 801.1 PC. In that case, you should contact our law firm for a case review. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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