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Washington Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws

States impose time limits for prosecutors to file criminal charges against defendants, to preserve evidence (both witnesses and physical evidence), and ensure 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 murderhomicide 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.

State Washington
Topic Criminal Statute of Limitations Laws
Definition The criminal statute of limitations is a time limit the state has for prosecuting a crime. Under Washington law, the statute of limitations depends on the severity of the crime you face, ranging from one year to no time limit.
Code Sections Revised Code of Washington Sec. 9A.04.080
Felonies
  • Murder: No time limit.
  • Arson causing death: No time limit.
  • Homicide by abuse: No time limit.
  • Vehicular homicide: No time limit.
  • Vehicular assault causing death: No time limit.
  • Hit-and-run injury/accident causing death: No time limit.
  • Rape if the victim is under the age of 16: No time limit.
  • Child molestation: No time limit.
  • Rape in the first degree: 20 years.
  • Rape in the second degree: 20 years.
  • Indecent liberties: 20 years.
  • Public official misconduct in connection with his/her duties: 10 years.
  • Arson: 10 years.
  • Attempted murder: 10 years.
  • Human trafficking: 10 years.
  • Rape in the third degree: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim's 30th birthday, whichever is later.
  • Commercial sexual abuse of a minor: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim's 30th birthday, whichever is later.
  • Incest: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim's 30th birthday, whichever is later.
  • Leading organized crime or criminal profiteering: 6 years.
  • Identity Crimes: 6 years.
  • Money Laundering: 6 years.
  • Theft in the first or second degree: 6 years.
  • Class C felony: 5 years.
  • Bigamy : 3 years.
  • All other felonies: 3 years.
Misdemeanors
  • Gross misdemeanors: 2 years.
  • Misdemeanors: 1 year.
Crimes in Which a Child Is a Victim
  • Rape in the third degree: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim's 30th birthday, whichever is later.
  • Commercial sexual abuse of a minor: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim's 30th birthday, whichever is later.
  • Incest: 10 years or if the victim is under the age of 18, up to the victim's 30th birthday, whichever is later.
  • Rape if the victim is under the age of 16: No time limit.
  • Child molestation: No time limit.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run When the person charged is not usually and publicly a resident within the state.
Other N/A

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 are worried that you might be prosecuted for an action that you have committed in the past, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Washington.

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