How Long After a California Car Accident Can You Be Charged?

September 2, 2022 Blog

If you’ve been in a car accident, you may be wondering how long you have before you can be charged with a crime. The answer depends on the severity of the accident and the circumstances surrounding it.

Here’s a breakdown of the length of time you have to be charged with various crimes after a car accident in California:

California car accident charges

Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated 

The prosecution can commission your arrest up to six years after the accident. Vehicular manslaughter refers to the unintentional killing of another person while committing a traffic violation or driving in a reckless manner. Penalties can include up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Hit and Run

If you’re suspected of felony hit and run, the prosecution can commission your arrest up to three years after the accident. If the victim suffered minor injuries, you may only be charged with a misdemeanor, in which case you can be arrested up to one year after the accident. The penalties for hit and run depend on the severity of the accident and whether anyone was injured.


If you’re suspected of driving under the influence, you can be arrested up to one year after the accident. The penalties for DUI can range from a few days in jail to several years in prison, depending on the severity of the accident and whether anyone was injured.

Reckless Driving

If you’re suspected of reckless driving, you can be charged anytime up to one year after the accident. You may lose your license, be fined, or be sentenced to jail time.

These are just a few examples of the types of crimes you can be charged with after a car accident in California. If you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible to find out what your legal options are.

California Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California is two years from the date of the accident. This means that you have two years to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you don’t file a lawsuit within this timeframe, you will likely be barred from doing so.

The statute of limitations may be extended in certain circumstances, such as if the victim is a minor or if the at-fault driver fled the scene of the accident. If you’re not sure whether the statute of limitations applies to your case, you should speak to an experienced California personal injury attorney.

Plan of what to do after being charged for a crime in a car accident

What to Do When Charged With a Crime after a Car Accident

If you’ve been charged with a crime after a car accident, it’s important to seek legal help as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense attorney will:

  • Investigate the accident and gather evidence to support your innocence
  • Speak to witnesses and get their statements
  • File motions to suppress evidence that was illegally obtained
  • Negotiate with the prosecutor for a reduced charge or sentence
  • Represent you at trial, if necessary

In addition to helping you avoid a conviction, a defense lawyer can also help you keep your driver’s license and insurance rates.

Possible Defenses to California Car Accident Charges

There are several defenses that can be used in car accident cases. Some of the most common include:

  • The accident was unavoidable: This could be the case if the other driver was speeding or driving recklessly.
  • You were not at fault for the accident: After an accident, it’s not always clear who was at fault. If you can prove that the other driver was at fault, you may be able to avoid charges.
  • Police misconduct: In some cases, the police may have acted improperly when investigating the accident. This could include conducting an illegal search or seizure. If this is the case, the evidence against you may be suppressed.
  • The evidence is insufficient: In order to be convicted of a crime, the prosecution must have enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is weak or there are holes in the prosecution’s case, you may be able to avoid a conviction.
  • Mistaken identity: In some cases, the wrong person may be charged with a crime. This is especially the case in hit-and-run accidents, where the driver may not be identified. If you can prove that you are not the driver, you may be able to avoid charges.

The circumstances of your case will determine which defenses are available to you. An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to review the evidence against you and help you build a strong defense.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Charged With a Crime after a Car Accident

There are a number of mistakes that can be made when facing car accident charges. Some of the most common include:

  • Talking to the police without caution: It’s important to remember that anything you say to the police can be used against you. You have the right to remain silent and you should exercise that right.
  • Confessing to the crime: In some cases, people may confess to a crime they did not commit. This is often done in an effort to protect someone else. If you confess to a crime, it will be very difficult to later prove your innocence.
  • Failing to hire a lawyer: Many people think they can represent themselves in court. However, car accident cases are very complicated and it’s important to have a lawyer on your side.

Talk to an Experienced California Car Accident Attorney

Here at Pathway Law Firm, we understand how overwhelming it can be to face car accident charges. That’s why tailor our services to meet the unique needs of each client. We will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.