How Long Does The District Attorney Have To File DUI Charges


When a person is arrested for suspected misdemeanor DUI, he or she is typically booked at the police station, issued a citation to appear in court, and released once someone comes to pick them up. The citation to appear in court concerns the criminal charges, not the DMV administrative sanctions. The citation advises the arrestee of the court location and date in which he or she is to appear. If the arrestee does not appear on that date, a bench warrant for his or her arrest will probably be issued. The bench warrant is usually recalled once the person does appear in court.

But what if the person appears in court on the date and time stated on the citation and the clerk informs him or her that the case is not on the court’s calendar. It happens. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that the arrestee somehow lucked out and the criminal charges disappeared. Rather, what it probably means is that prosecutor just hasn’t gotten around to filing the charges.

When the citation is issued by the police department, the date for the court appearance is generated according to the court calendar but sometimes the prosecutor hasn’t filed the charges by that date. When that happens, the case will not appear on the court’s calendar and the clerk and judge will know nothing about your case because, well, at that point there isn’t one. There could be many reasons why the prosecutor did not file charges by the court date but most often it is either because the prosecutor’s office is backlogged or the prosecutor assigned to the case is still investigating the arrest.

Once the prosecutor gets around to filing the charges, the prosecutor will mail a notice informing the arrestee that the charges have been filed and notifying the arrestee of the new court date. It can take up to one year to file the charges following the arrest under the statute of limitations (time in which the prosecutor can file charges) for misdemeanors. (Penal Code §802.)

In the period of time between the arrest and the filing of charges, the arrestee could have moved. If there is no forwarding address, the person will never receive the notice. Without receipt of the notice, the person does not know that he or she is to appear in court. And that will mean a bench warrant will be issued for the person’s arrest.

Just because a person moved and did not receive the notice doesn’t get him or her off the hook and is not an excuse when he or she gets arrested on the outstanding bench warrant. Even if the one-year statute of limitations has passed when the person is arrested for not appearing in court, the charges are still valid as long the charges were filed by the prosecutor within the one-year limitation.

I have had clients who found themselves in this exact scenario. They either figure the case was dropped or forgotten by the prosecutor, or more often, they don’t hear anything about the case and decide to ignore it. That is not a good idea. If you have been arrested for DUI., you are probably going to have criminal charges filed against you, even if it takes a while.

William Weinberg has almost 25 years of experience in defending drivers charged with driving under the influence. You may consult with him about your DUI matter by contacting him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or emailing him at


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