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Navigating California’s Statute of Limitations: A Guide for Civil and Criminal Cases

California Statute of Limitations:

A Guide to Deadlines for Filing Civil and Criminal CasesWhen a civil or criminal incident occurs, it can be challenging to know the appropriate time to file a lawsuit or charges. That’s where California’s statute of limitations comes into play.

This law sets the maximum time frame in which individuals can file a case, depending on the type of action. In this article, we’ll cover the different types of cases with varying deadlines, the exceptions to the statutes of limitations for heinous crimes, and the time limits for filing charges for different types of criminal activity in California.

California Civil Statute of Limitations

Civil actions refer to lawsuits seeking legal remedies to resolve disputes between parties. The statute of limitations for civil cases starts from the date of harm or discovery of harm, not the date of the incident.

In California, the following are the time limits for different types of cases:

Personal Injury Cases

For injuries caused by actions or negligence, you must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the incident. Examples of personal injury include automobile accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice.

Libel or Slander Cases

If someone falsely accuses you of defamation, you can file a lawsuit within one year of discovering the statement.

Fraud Cases

You have three years to file a lawsuit if you discover fraud or two years from the date of discovery. Failure to discover fraud within five years after it occurred will prevent any legal action.

Injury to Personal Property Cases

Injury to real property, such as homes or buildings, has three years for lawsuits. Conversely, personal property cases, such as car accidents or vandalism, have three years to file a lawsuit.

Professional Malpractice Cases

Breaches of medical or legal professional conduct have one year from the date of discovery or three years total from the date of the breach.

Trespass Cases

Civil trespassing cases have three years to file legal action from the date of harm.

Collections Cases

You have four years to sue someone who owes them money under a contract or is unjustly enriched by retaining your money.

Contract Cases

Breach of Contract claims have four years in California to file from the date of the breach.

Judgment Cases

You have ten years from the date the judgment is issued to collect the debt.

California Criminal Statute of Limitations

Criminal activity refers to any action or behavior violating state or federal laws. California has varying statutes of limitations depending on the crime committed and the seriousness of the offense.

Exceptions to Statutes of Limitations

One of the exceptions to the statute of limitations is for heinous crimes that include murder, kidnapping, and certain sex crimes. Under these circumstances, prosecution can take place at any time, regardless of the time elapsed since the event occurred.

Felony Crimes

California has no statute of limitations for felonies and can prosecute such cases indefinitely.

Misdemeanor Crimes

Typically, a misdemeanor crime has a lesser penalty than a felony and has a one-year statute of limitations in California.

Sexual Exploitation Crimes

Under California’s law, crimes involving sexual assault or exploitation of minors extend the statute of limitations until the time the victim turns 28 or three years after their discovery of the crime, whichever occurs later.


In conclusion, California’s statutes of limitations limit the amount of time to file lawsuits or criminal charges. Depending on the type of case, you have a set amount of time to file a claim.

It’s crucial to understand these time limits and exceptions to the law to protect your rights. If you’re unsure about your civil or criminal case, consider speaking to a legal professional to navigate the process successfully.

In conclusion, California’s statute of limitations sets maximum time frames for filing civil and criminal cases, depending on the type of action. Personal injury, libel and slander, fraud, injurious property damage, professional malpractice, trespass, collections, contract breaches, and judgments all have specific deadline limitations.

There are also exceptions for heinous crimes, murder, kidnapping, embezzlement, and sexual exploitation. Understanding these time limits is crucial to protecting your rights and ensuring justice is served.

If you have any doubts about the validity of your case, it’s essential to speak with a legal professional who can help you navigate the process successfully.

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