Washington changed its statute of limitation laws regarding rape in 2019. Though nearly three years have passed since the changes, due to the nature of the internet, the old laws can still be accidentally found and used as a reference.
Here are the laws as they stand in 2023:
Rape in the first-degree statute of Limitation
The statute of limitations is 20 years. If the victim is under the age of 16, there is no limit.
Rape in the first degree is defined as when someone forcibly compels an individual into having sexual intercourse, along with one or more of the following conditions:
- Threats with a deadly weapon
- The victim endures serious physical injury during the encounter
Further conditions that can raise a rape charge to the first degree include forcibly entering the home, building or vehicle where the victim was at the time of the attack.
This charge is classified as a class A felony.
Rape in the second-degree statute of Limitation
As with first degree rape, the statute of limitations is 20 years for adult victims, and no limit for victims under 16.
Second degree rape is prosecuted if one or more of the circumstances detailed above do not apply. The charge also applies to situations when the victim was physically or mentally incapacitated (e.g., by drugs or alcohol) and when the crime involves vulnerable or frail adults.
Furthermore, this charge applies to rape that occurs in a healthcare setting, like during exams, treatments or consultations.
As with first degree rape, second degree rape is a class A felony.
Rape in the third-degree statute of Limitation
Ten years is the statute of limitations for this offence regardless of the victim’s age, unless the victim is 14 years old or younger.
This charge is a catch-all for circumstances that don’t meet the criteria for first- and second-degree rape. In addition to forced sexual intercourse, third degree charges can apply to situations when the victim is compelled to have sex under the threat of theft or destruction of their property.
Third degree rape is a class C felony.
Rape of a child statute of Limitation
In all instances, there is no statute of limitations for the rape of a child.
Washington does not have Romeo and Juliet laws, but there are some exceptions.
Child molestation and misconduct statute of Limitation
For child molestation charges, there is no limit to the statutes of limitations.
First degree sexual misconduct with a minor also has no limit. Second degree sexual misconduct with a minor has a statute of limitations of three years.
Washington is particularly aggressive when handing out punishments to people convicted of rape. Sentences for first- and second-degree rape can be up to life in prison, and/or fines up to $50,000. A third-degree rape conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine.