For the second time in four years, the Washington Legislature has extended the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children. Prosecutions for Rape of a Child, Child Molestation, Indecent Liberties, Incest, and Sexual Exploitation of a Minor now may commence any time before the complaining witness turns 30 years old. The statute appears at Revised Code of Washington section 9A.04.080.
Early versions of the legislation sought to make the criminal statute of limitations roughly the same as the far more liberal statute of limitations for claims for compensation for childhood sex abuse, RCW 4.16.340. Both would have been set at age 30. As the bill moved through the legislature, though, it was shorn of all but the extension of the criminal limitations period.
Among the functions of statutes of limitation is to provide defendants fair trials. When one is required to defend against a charge that one committed a crime decades ago, one’s memory of the time will have faded, witnesses may have died or disappeared, and documents will likely have been lost.