Many people ask us about the “statute of limitations” and how much time police have to charge somebody for having committed an offence. Under Western Australian law, there is no such thing as a “statute of limitations” per se. The statute of limitations is a concept that a lot of people pick up from American television shows. Nevertheless, the concept does have some application in Western Australia’s criminal law.
Whether or not there is a time limit for charging someone with a criminal offence under Western Australian law depends on the type of offence. Under WA law, there are three types of criminal offence:
- Indictable offences. Indictable offences are those offences described as a “crime”, and where there is only one penalty prescribed. Indictable offences must be dealt with by either the District Court or the Supreme Court.
- Either way offences. Either way offences are where the offence is described as a crime, but unlike strictly indictable offences, there is a “summary conviction penalty” indicating the charge may be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
- Simple offences. Simple offences are also sometimes referred to as “summary only” offences e.g. drug possession. A simple offence is not described as a crime and can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court and not in the District Court or Supreme Court (unless the person is also being dealt with for an indictable offence and the person requests the court dealing with that indictable offence to also deal with the simple offence).
Under Western Australia’s Criminal Procedure Act 2004, a prosecution for simple offence must be commenced within twelve months of the date of the alleged offence.
For an indictable or either way offence: a prosecution may be commenced at any time. In other words: there is no time limit for charging someone with an indictable or either way offence.
If you like more information regarding time limits for commencing prosecutions: call us today on 1300 274 692 and one of our team will be more than happy to assist you.