People v. Zamora
In People v. Zamora, 18 Cal. 3d 538, 557 P.2d 75, 134 Cal. Rptr. 784 (Cal. 1976), the court addressed complicated facts concerning two fires intentionally set to collect insurance proceeds and ultimately concluded that the resulting criminal charges were barred by the applicable statute of limitation that, like Arizona's, included a discovery-based trigger.
In so holding, the court alluded to the following rule that applied to civil cases in California:
"'The statute commences to run . . . after one has knowledge of facts sufficient to make a reasonably prudent person suspicious of fraud, thus putting him on inquiry.'" Id. at 91.
Nonetheless, the court in Zamora did not expressly adopt a reasonable-suspicion, or inquiry-notice, standard for determining the point at which the limitation period for criminal charges would commence.
Rather, the court merely held "as a matter of law the uncontradicted evidence produced at trial showed that with the exercise of reasonable diligence the facts constituting the acts of grand theft could have been discovered at an earlier time." Id. at 94.
In addition, the court later noted that "once there is sufficient knowledge (judged by the standards we have set forth herein) that a theft has been committed the limitation period will begin to run." Id. at 98 n.33.
In People v. Zamora (1976) the court explained that although the statute is triggered by discovery, law enforcement officials are under a duty to exercise reasonable diligence. ( Id. at p. 561.)
Thus, "'the statute commences to run . . . after one has knowledge of facts sufficient to make a reasonably prudent person suspicious of fraud, thus putting him on inquiry.'" ( Id. at p. 562, quoting Hobart v. Hobart Estate Co. (1945) 26 Cal.2d 412, 437.)
At the pleading stage, to avoid the statutory bar because of late discovery, the People may not simply allege in general terms that the fraud could not have been discovered at an earlier date in the exercise of reasonable diligence. ( Zamora, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 564, fn. 26.)
Rather, the People must allege facts showing:
"(1) the date on which the offense was 'discovered';
(2) how and by whom the offense was 'discovered';
(3) lack of knowledge, both actual or constructive, prior to the date of 'discovery';
(4) the reason why the offense was not 'discovered' earlier." ( Id. at p. 565, fn. 26.)
As the court explained, requiring that such facts be pleaded "will certainly serve to clarify the task of determining whether any diligence has been shown, particularly because the People bear the burden of proving a negative proposition, i.e., that knowledge of the offense could not have been obtained at an earlier time.
With the basic facts on the 'discovery' issue set forth in the pleading it will be much easier to then consider the People's additional proof on the issue which will be presented either to the grand jury or before the magistrate.
Finally, specific pleading of the facts will serve to focus the attention of the trier of fact on the critical questions to be resolved preliminary to the ultimate decision of the limitation issue." (Ibid.)