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Can a Prosecutor Charge Me with a DUI Years Later?

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In television and movies, an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) seems to be synonymous with DUI charges; a person is arrested, told the charges against them, and they are tossed into a jail cell. In reality, the process is radically different, as being arrested for suspicion of a crime is not the same as being charged for one.

Part of a state prosecutor’s job is reviewing arrests within their region or county and determining which ones should warrant charges. This is not to say that a prosecutor gets to decide who is guilty and who is innocent. The decision to press charges while representing the state is based on whether or not the charges could lead to a conviction and, if so, would it be “worth the trouble” for the state to pursue a conviction.

Statutes of Limitations on Filing Charges in CA

It is pretty uncommon for the state to completely drop a case at this point and choose not to file charges, as most police officers know only to arrest someone when it is likely that they have committed a crime. If the prosecution wants some time to think it over, perhaps due to strange circumstances or unclear legislation, they can only think for so long. After a certain amount of time, a statute of limitations will expire and charges can no longer be filed based on that arrest.

In California, statutes of limitations regarding charges are usually:

  • 1 year for low-level misdemeanors
  • 2 years for gross misdemeanors
  • 3 years for felonies

Statutes of limitations, like many things in the legal system, are open to some interpretation and flexibility. If a judge can be convinced that filing charges after the statute has expired is warranted, it could be permitted. For example, new DNA evidence is discovered in a violent crime investigation several years after the act was committed.

As far as DUI arrests go, you should always assume that the charges are going to be quick to follow. State prosecutors know that law enforcement officials will generally provide them evidence in the form of field sobriety tests or chemical tests that yielded a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at the time of the arrest. This information makes it easy for a prosecutor to win a case and bolster their record, assuming the accused doesn’t put up a fight.

If you have been arrested for a DUI, our Bakersfield DUI attorneys at Campbell Whitten are geared up and ready to challenge the system on your behalf. When you retain our services, you will be represented by not one but a whole team of criminal defense lawyers who have focused their careers on DUI defense cases. Discover what our outside-of-the-box strategies can do for you by contacting us today.