When someone is released after being arrested for a California DUI, they’re usually given a citation which includes a court date and courthouse location. It is not uncommon, however, for DUI defendants to show up to court on the date specified only to have the clerk tell them that their case is not on the court’s calendar because the prosecutor has not yet filed charges. They’re then told that they’ll receive a notification in the mail with a new date once the prosecutor files charges.
There are several steps that occur, usually over the course of a couple of months, before DUI charges can be filed.
The arresting agency must first complete their report. This includes the actual written report, the interview of witnesses, the examination of evidence, and the preparation of any video footage.
Once the law enforcement agency completes its report, their file is sent to the prosecuting agency. Here in Southern California, the prosecuting agency is usually a City Attorney or a District Attorney. The prosecuting agency then reviews the file which was given to them by the arresting law enforcement agency and determines if there is enough evidence to file charges.
Often is the case that, by the time this process is complete, the date written on the bottom of the citation has come and gone.
So when this happens, the question arises, “How long does the prosecutor have to file the charges?”
California Penal Code section 802 states, “Except as provided in subdivision (b), (c), or (d), prosecution for an offense not punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison shall be commenced within one year after commission of the offense.” Subsections (b), (c), and (d) are not applicable to DUI cases. Therefore the statute of limitations on any misdemeanor DUI is one year.
So, just because a case is not filed by the date on the citation does not mean the case is gone or that the prosecutor simply forgot to file charges. They have a year.
People are also mistaken when they believe that the statute of limitation on a DUI has passed simply because they’ve done nothing on their case for more than a year. In other words, just because you’ve ignored that DUI you got arrested for seven years ago does not necessarily mean that the statute of limitations has run. If charges were filed within a year of your arrest regardless of what happened afterwards, the statute of limitations has not run.