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Washington Criminal Statute of Limitations

Posted Thursday, March 30, 2017 by Lizanne Padula.

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A statute of limitations is a time limit that bars the filing of claims past a certain date. Statutes of limitations are used in both civil cases, such as personal injury claims, and criminal cases. A criminal statute of limitations prevents a prosecutor from filing criminal charges after a certain date. The statute usually begins running the date the alleged crime was committed. These statutes serve a valuable purpose. They ensure evidence is preserved or accessed in a timely manner and help support the efficiency of the judicial process. Washington has criminal statues of limitations for both misdemeanor and felony crimes.

When Time Limits Expire

Once a statute “runs” (the time limit is reached or expires), the prosecutor can no longer file criminal charges against the defendant. Exceptions to this general rule exist, however, and not all crimes are subject to a statute of limitations. For example, a prosecutor can file charges for crimes such as murder, homicide, vehicular homicide, and a few select other serious felonies at any point. But many categories of crimes have relatively short statutes. Barring exceptions, the basic criminal statutes of limitations in Washington are:

3 years for felonies (except for serious felonies and those listed above)

2 years for gross misdemeanors, and

1 year for misdemeanors

Prosecutors are very watchful of these statutes, and the majority of criminal charges are filed in a timely manner once the crime has been discovered.

If you have questions about Washington’s criminal statutes of limitations, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney. The specifics of your case can dictate if and when the statute will run in your case. If charges have not been filed but you have reason to believe they could be, you should identify the statute that applies to your case so you can make sure charges aren’t filed after it runs. But remember, there are exceptions to these general statutes, so you should speak with an attorney about your specific case. A skilled Washington criminal defense attorney can advise you of the statute of limitations applicable to your case and help you defend yourself against charges when they are formally filed.

Are you facing criminal charges? The attorneys at Padula & Associates, LLC understand your concerns and can help you take the right steps in your case. Our attorneys are experienced in DUI and criminal defense and can help you face your charges with confidence while defending your rights. For 10 years Padula & Associates has been serving those in King County, Snohomish County, and surrounding areas with aggressive criminal defense services for DUIs, domestic violence, and other criminal charges. Call us 24/7 at 425-883-3366, email us at or fill out our free consultation form today.