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Washington changes timeframe for attempted murder charges

The criminal law is in a constant state of flux. These changes can be critical to Washington residents who are facing allegations of criminal wrongdoing, but most of them are unable to keep abreast of the current state of the law. After all, most people don't think much about the law until it becomes an issue in their lives. Yet, knowing the law in its current state and how it can affect one's criminal defense is crucial, as failing to do so could result in severely negative consequences, including conviction and confinement.

One area of the criminal law that recently changed is the statute of limitations for attempted murder. A statute of limitation defines the time period during which a charge must be brought. The charge will be barred if it is brought forth after the time listed in the statute of limitations has run. For most felonies in Washington, the statute of limitation is three years. However, a bill was recently signed into law extending the time limit for attempted murder charges to 10 years. The sponsor of the bill felt like this extension was appropriate given the severity of the crime and the fact that murder charges stemming from a death are not subject to the statute of limitations.

So, how does this affect Washington residents accused of attempted murder? It means that the state has a longer period of time to build a strong case. Although this may be disadvantageous, an attempted murder charge that is brought a decade after an alleged incident will likely have weaknesses. Witness's memories may be foggy, physical evidence may be degraded or lost, and the defense may even have more time to find supporting witnesses.

Therefore, although the law has changed significantly here, accused individuals shouldn't be paralyzed into inaction by their fear. Instead, they need to consider discussing their case with a qualified criminal defense attorney who will fight to keep them out of prison.

Source: The Spokesman-Review, "Attempted murder charges can be filed up to 10 years later," April 25, 2017

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