Southern California Family Law Blog

By changing just a few words, California’s government has made it easier for domestic violence cases to find their way to court long after the alleged incident took place. The new law, SB 273, increases the length of the statute of limitations on domestic violence cases from three years to five years. Whether charged as a felony or misdemeanor, the prosecution now can bring criminal charges against you or a loved one up to half a decade after the incident. 

Prosecutors Believe the Change Is Necessary

Prosecutors argue the change is necessary because of the unique nature of domestic violence crimes. They are cases often involving people who live together, whether as spouses, parents and children, or even roommates. The close relationship makes it difficult for the victim to bring a criminal complaint against the alleged perpetrator, and often the victim will wait for the status of the relationship to change before alerting the police. 

With the time limit increasing, prosecutors now can also stretch back into the history of the relationship between the accused and the accuser, and string together multiple incidents into one case, making it more likely that a jury will vote to convict a person because of a pattern of alleged bad behavior. According to former San Francisco District Attorney Suzy Loftus, showing a pattern of abusive acts could “tell the story of abuse in a way that is often very difficult to do in these cases.” 

Longer Statute of Limitations Means Challenges for Defense

Statutes of limitation serve an important purpose in criminal law. They mark the time period for a case after which the evidence is likely to become less reliable and more difficult to present to a jury. Key witnesses, such as neighbors who might have heard or seen the incident, may move away from the area and become impossible to locate. The memory of the victim may have faded over time. Physical evidence may have been lost or discarded by the time the victim comes forward. The longer between the incident and the trying of the case in court, the more likely the evidence cannot be trusted.

The law has just gone into effect as of January 1, 2020, but it is also likely that defense attorneys will point out that the lengthening of the statute of limitations may lead to violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights, including the right to due process and the right to a speedy trial. Extending the statute of limitations could lead to further abuses of these rights, as prosecutors may hold evidence from one incident that would not be enough to charge a crime for several years until a second incident occurs, and then attempt to bring them together and charge the two incidents as a “pattern” of domestic violence.

Contact the Domestic Violence Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich For Help

If you are facing a domestic violence charge, you should not hesitate to retain an experienced domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, we have over 38 years of experience in helping clients like you fight against domestic violence accusations. Whether the incident happened five years ago or five days ago, we will work tirelessly and use all of our legal skills and knowledge to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Let our skilled attorneys and legal professionals help you today.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich domestic violence attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.

Contact our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no-obligation phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

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