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District of Columbia Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

Generally speaking, there's a time limit on when someone can be charged with a crime. There are multiple good reasons for this policy — for both the prosecutor and the defendant. State laws place limits on how much time prosecutors have to file criminal charges, called the criminal statute of limitations. Most states have different limits for different kinds of crimes. The District of Columbia follows this same model.

Criminal statutes of limitations apply to different crimes on the basis of their general classification as either felonies or misdemeanors. The time limit starts to run on the date the offense was committed, not from the time the crime was discovered or the accused was identified.

What If an Accused Person is Out of the State?

The running of the statute may be suspended for any period of time the accused is absent from the state or, in certain states, while any other indictment for the same crime is pending. This suspension occurs so that the state will be able to obtain a new indictment in the event the first one is declared invalid.

Statutes of limitations often differ by the severity of the crime, with homicide and other serious crimes having no time limit at all.

What if the Prosecutor Doesn't File Charges In Time?

Criminal suspects may not be charged with a crime if the statute of limitations has expired, provided he or she was living openly (not evading law enforcement) throughout the statutory period. Statutes of limitation are meant to help preserve the integrity of evidence (including witness testimony) and maintain efficiency in the criminal justice system.

Criminal Statute of Limitations in the District of Columbia

In D.C, all misdemeanors carry a 3-year statute of limitations. Most felonies do not have any statute of limitations.

Additional details are listed below. If you have a civil law matter, see Time Limits to Bring a Civil Case: The Statute of Limitations to learn about similar time limits used in civil law.

State District of Columbia
Topic Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws
Definition The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under the District of Columbia law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from three years to no time limit.
Code Sections 23-113
Felonies
  • First or second-degree murder: No time limit.
  • Murder of a law enforcement officer or public safety employee: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree murder that constitutes an act of terrorism: No time limit.
  • Murder of a law enforcement officer or public safety employee that constitutes an act of terrorism: No time limit.
  • First, second, third, and fourth-degree sexual abuse: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree child sexual abuse: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree sexual abuse of a ward, patient, client, or prisoner: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree sexual abuse of a patient or client: No time limit.
  • Incest: No time limit.
  • Enticing a child for the purpose of committing felony sexual abuse: 10 years time limit.
  • Using a minor in a sexual performance or promoting a sexual performance by a minor: 10 years time limit.
  • Trafficking in labor or commercial sex and sex trafficking of children: 10 years time limit.
  • Abducting or enticing child from his or her home for purposes of prostitution, or harboring such child: 10 years time limit.
  • Pandering, inducing, or compelling an individual to engage in prostitution: 10 years time limit.
  • Compelling an individual to live life of prostitution against his or her will: 10 years time limit.
  • Causing spouse or domestic partner to live in prostitution: 10 years time limit.
  • Any other felony: 6 years time limit.
  • A prosecution for a felony/misdemeanor
Misdemeanors 3-year time limit
Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
  • First and second-degree child sexual abuse: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor: No time limit.
  • First and second-degree sexual abuse of a secondary education student: No time limit.
  • Incest: No time limit.
  • Enticing a child for the purpose of committing felony sexual abuse: 10 years time limit.
  • Using a minor in a sexual performance or promoting a sexual performance by a minor: 10 years time limit.
  • Trafficking in labor or commercial sex and sex trafficking of children: 10 years time limit.
  • Abducting or enticing child from his or her home for purposes of prostitution, or harboring such child: 10 years time limit.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run

Period of limitation does not run

  • When a prosecution against the defendant for that offense is pending in the courts of the District of Columbia.
  • Until the victim reaches 21 years of age for the following offenses
    1. Enticing a child for the purpose of committing felony sexual abuse;
    2. Using a minor in a sexual performance or promoting a sexual performance by a minor;
    3. Forced labor, trafficking in labor or commercial sex, sex trafficking of children, and benefiting financially from human trafficking where the victim is a minor.
  • When a person is fleeing from justice.
Other Prosecution for a felony or a misdemeanor offense completed based on official conduct:
  • Within 3 years after a public officer or employee has left office;  OR
  • Within 3 years after fraud or breach of fiduciary trust has been or reasonably should have been, discovered for any completed offense based on that fraud or breach of fiduciary trust.

Note: State criminal statute of limitation laws are constantly changing -- contact a District of Columbia criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law:

District of Columbia Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources

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