States impose time limits for prosecutors to file criminal charges against defendants, with the intention of preserving evidence (both witnesses and physical evidence) and ensuring an efficient judicial process. Time limits, or "statutes of limitation," apply to all crimes, both misdemeanors and felonies.
When Does A Statute Of Limitations Begin To Run?
Generally speaking, the time period begins to run on the date when a crime is alleged to have been committed. Once the statute of limitations has expired or "run," you can't be prosecuted for that crime in most circumstances.
Follow along as FindLaw explores the different time limits for certain criminal offenses in the state of Washington.
Crimes Without A Time Limit
Not all crimes are governed by statutes of limitation. In Washington, there are no time limits on filing charges for murder, homicide by abuse, and other serious felonies. This includes all types of murder, arson that leads to a death and all vehicular crimes that involve death.
Washington's criminal statute of limitation laws are listed in the chart below.
See Criminal Law Basics for more information.
|Felonies||Murder, arson causing death: none; homicide by abuse, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault causing death, hit-and-run injury/accident causing death: none; public official misconduct, arson: 10 yrs.; rape if reported 1 yr. of commission: 10 yrs., or if victim is under 14 yrs. old, 3 yrs. after victim turns 18, whichever is later; rape if not reported within 1 yr.: 3 yrs. or if victim is under 14 yrs. old, 3 yrs. after victim turns 18 yrs. old, but not more than 7 yrs. after rape; child molestation, indecent liberties, incest: if victim is under 14 yrs. old, 3 yrs. after victim turns 18 yrs. old, but not more than 7 yrs. of offense; leading organized crime or criminal profiteering: 6 yrs.; Class C felony: 5 yrs.; bigamy and all other felonies: 3 yrs.|
|Misdemeanors||Gross misdemeanors: 2 yrs.; other offenses: 1 yr.|
|Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run||Not publicly a resident|
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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Washington Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws: Related Resources
Get Legal Help to Better Understand Washington Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws
Although Washington's criminal statute of limitations laws appear to be fairly straight forward, the application of the laws can be complex. If you're worried that you might be prosecuted for an action that you have committed in the past, it's a good idea to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Washington.
Contact a qualified attorney.