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DC Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations District of Columbia- Summary

District of Columbia Recording LawsThe District of Columbia’s statute of limitations establishes a deadline before which civil cases – such as lawsuits – must be filed in the district. In relation to criminal charges, it also prevents prosecutors from charging an individual with a crime after a specified period of time has passed. The statutes of limitations for different civil actions and crimes can vary from state to state, so read on for more information about how they apply in the District of Columbia. 

District of Columbia Statute of Limitations

Washington D.C.’s civil statute of limitations sets deadlines under which lawsuits and other civil actions must be filed in the district. These limits typically range from three – twelve years, depending on the type of case or procedure. A three-year time limit applies to most cases in D.C., although claims to recover lands, tenements, or hereditaments can be filed up to fifteen years after the underlying offense took place. The date or discovery of an incident is usually when time starts counting down.

Be aware that if you fail to file your civil claim before the established deadline, the opposing party can use the statute of limitations in their defense and file a motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the time allotted to file it has already passed. Any legal claim will be lost forever once your case is dismissed. 

A summary of civil statutes of limitations in the District of Columbia:

Injury to Person3 yrs. §12-301(8)
Libel/Slander1 yr. §12-301(4)
Fraud3 yrs. §12-301(8)
Injury to Personal Property3 yrs. §12-301(2,3)
Professional Malpractice3 yrs. §12-301(8)
Trespass3 yrs. §12-301(3)
Collection of Rents3 yrs. §12-301(8)
ContractsWritten: 4 yrs. (sales contract) §28:2-725; 3 yrs. (simple contract) §12-301(7)
Collection of Debt on Account3 yrs. §12-301(8)
Judgments12 yrs. §15-101; Foreign judgments according to law of foreign jurisdiction §12-307

State laws related to filing lawsuits can change often. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a D.C. attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

District of Columbia Criminal Statute of Limitations

The District of Columbia’s criminal statute of limitations sets time limits on the filing of criminal charges. As it is in most of the states, Washington D.C. does not place a deadline on bringing charges for crimes considered especially heinous, including first or second degree murder. The law says prosecutors can charge someone with one of these crimes no matter how much time has passed. All misdemeanors have a three-year statute of limitations in D.C. Most felonies have a three-year limit as well, aside from those listed in the chart below.

A summary of criminal statutes of limitations in the District of Columbia:

Code SectionDistrict of Columbia Code Division IV. Criminal Law and Procedure and Prisoners. § 23-113
Felonies– First or second degree murder: none
– First degree sexual abuse; second degree sexual abuse; first degree child sexual abuse; and second degree child sexual abuse: 15 yrs
– Third degree sexual abuse; fourth degree sexual abuse; enticing a child for the purpose of committing felony sexual abuse; first degree sexual abuse of a ward; second degree sexual abuse of a ward; first degree sexual abuse of a patient or client; second degree sexual abuse of a patient or client; using a minor in a sexual performance or promoting a sexual performance by a minor; incest; and trafficking in labor or commercial sex and sex trafficking of children: 10 years
– Other felonies in 1st and 2nd degree: 6 yrs.
– If crime was related to official misconduct, fraud or breach of fiduciary trust: max. 9 yrs. (felony), 6 yrs. (misdemeanor)
– All other felonies: 3 yrs.
Misdemeanors3 yrs.
Acts During Which Statute Does Not RunIf an alleged criminal is in hiding or out of state; statutory periods begin once a crime is or should have been identified

State laws are always subject to change. While our goal is to provide the most current information available, please consider contacting a D.C. attorney or doing legal research of your own to verify the state law(s) you’re researching. 

District of Columbia Recording Laws