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N Cal Attorney
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 8974
Experience:  since 1983
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Five years Ago a pair of ear rings was stolen from my home

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Five years Ago a pair of ear rings was stolen from my home valued at $10,000. I recently discovered that the person I suspected originally was indeed the culprit, and still has the jewelry. What recourse do I have criminally and/or civilly to be able to hold them accountable and get the stolen items back? Do they now legally own them?

I'm in California and its been five years since they were stolen.


I am sorry to hear this.

A thief never gains title to stolen property no matter how long he or she hides it.

You can file a new police report and/or you can sue for replevin of the property (assuming your insurer has not already paid for this loss).

The statute of limitations on this claim is posted at Code of Civil Procedure
338. Within three years:
(a) An action upon a liability created by statute, other than a
penalty or forfeiture.
(b) An action for trespass upon or injury to real property.
(c) (1) An action for taking, detaining, or injuring any goods or
chattels, including actions for the specific recovery of personal
(2) The cause of action in the case of theft, as described in
Section 484 of the Penal Code, of any article of historical,
interpretive, scientific, or artistic significance is not deemed to
have accrued until the discovery of the whereabouts of the article by
the aggrieved party, his or her agent, or the law enforcement agency
that originally investigated the theft.
Whether the statute has run appears to depend on whether they were off the rack or customized, as customized jewelry would appear to have artistic significance.

You can sue to recover the earrings and if the defendant does not raise the statute of limitations as an issue, it will not be an issue.

I hope this information is helpful.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
If I'm understanding what you're saying correctly, if the ear rings were just off the shelf which they were, I would have had three years, which has passed. If indeed the civil statute has lapsed what options do I have if any?

What options might I have in the criminal system?

You can sue to recover the earrings and if the defendant does not raise the statute of limitations as an issue, it will not be an issue.

Do you know how the person obtained possession of the earrings?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Yes, i suspected they stole them from my home back in 2008 during a party and now have confirmed that the individual still has them, as they attempted to sell them to another acquaintance.


If they raise the issue of statute of limitations, then what recourse if any am i left with?


And what about options within the criminal courts?

I need to do some more research but I also need to ask if you were an elder or dependent adult at the time of the theft.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I was neither, but i'm interested to know why you ask that question.



I asked because of Penal Code § 803:

803. (a) Except as provided in this section, a limitation of time
prescribed in this chapter is not tolled or extended for any reason.
(b) No time during which prosecution of the same person for the
same conduct is pending in a court of this state is a part of a
limitation of time prescribed in this chapter.
(c) A limitation of time prescribed in this chapter does not
commence to run until the discovery of an offense described in this
subdivision. This subdivision applies to an offense punishable by
imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment pursuant to
subdivision (h) of Section 1170, a material element of which is fraud
or breach of a fiduciary obligation, the commission of the crimes of
theft or embezzlement upon an elder or dependent adult, or the basis
of which is misconduct in office by a public officer, employee, or
appointee, including, but not limited to, the following offenses:
(1) Grand theft of any type, forgery, falsification of public
records, or acceptance of a bribe by a public official or a public

What did the police say when you told them you have discovered the identity of the thief and the location of the stolen property?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The police were very little help, seemed to feel that the statute of limitations expired and not much could be done, didn't seem to take it seriously.


I filed a police report originally, but don't have the docs any longer.



I am sorry but it does appear that both the civil and criminal statute of limitations have expired. The civil statute of limitations is suspended during any time th defendant was out of State, under Code of Civil Procedure § 351:
"351. If, when the cause of action accrues against a person, he is
out of the State, the action may be commenced within the term herein
limited, after his return to the State, and if, after the cause of
action accrues, he departs from the State, the time of his absence is
not part of the time limited for the commencement of the action."

Do you know if the defendant was ever outside the State since the theft?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I do not know for sure either way, but that doesn't sound too terribly promising.


So then, to understand the question, he technically doesn't ever own it, I do, but i have no real means of holding the person accountable or getting the property back short of physically taking it back and risking an OJ?


Thanks for all your help.

I am sorry but that does seem to be the situation.

Please remember that the Experts here do not make the laws, we just answer questions to the best of our abilities.

If the police wanted to help, they could try to set up a sting operation by having someone pose as a buyer and then arrest the seller for having sold stolen property. But I cannot make the police do their job.

The only hope I can see is to file a small claims case and hope that the defendant fails to raise the statute of limitations as a defense. That actually happens fairly often because most small claims defendants do not know that they have to plead the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense.

I know this is not the answer you had hoped for, but it would be a disservice to you, and unprofessional of me, not to provide accurate information.
N Cal Attorney, Attorney
Satisfied Customers: 8974
Experience: since 1983
N Cal Attorney and 4 other Consumer Protection Law Specialists are ready to help you
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