What should I do if I was charged for petty theft and made one court appearance but then moved away?

I made an appearance once for court then moved to another state due to personal reasons. My appearance was over 18 months ago. Wondering if this apply to my statutes of limitations or what course of action I should take?

Asked on July 22, 2015 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

There is a chance the prosecutor has dismissed the case against you if it is the policy of that jurisdiction to "clean up cases" after a year or so of inactivity. However, if the case is still pending, you will not get a dismissal because of the statute of limitations issues.

The statute of limitation begins to run on the day an offense is alleged to have occurred... and continues until a case is filed. A case must be dismissed if it wasn't filed timely.  If your case was filed within the statute of limitations, then your case won't be dismissed just because you didn't appear for court.

However... you may have an argument for a speedy trial violation.  This is occurs where a case is filed within the statute of limitations, but takes so long to prosecute that evidence becomes stale.  Some jurisdictions will let you pursue this motion and seek a dismissal of your case.  Others will not on the basis that you should not get a benefit by way of your conduct, namely, not appearing for court.

At this point, your first step should be to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney to help you resolve the criminal case... assuming that it is still active.  Considering this is a petty theft charge, you may be able to get it resolved by simply paying restitution and performing some community service hours. 


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