Does Biblical law have "statutes of limitation" for prosecuting crime?
There are no explicit statutes of limitation in Biblical law. However, there are two practical limitations:
- Witness memory is an inherent practical limit when prosecuting a crime. If a witness contradicts himself or others because of a faulty memory of an event which happened too long ago, that would discredit him in the eyes of the judge. Plaintiffs would be motivated to bring suit earlier so that they could ensure more reliable witness memory, which would survive any challenges.
- Witness lifespan is another practical limit. In the case of death penalty offenses, the witnesses are required to throw the first stones (Deut. 13:9-10, Deut. 17:5-7, John 8:7). This is how they demonstrate -- performatively -- that they are convinced of the defendant's guilt. But if the witness is dead, he/she cannot throw the first stone. The act of throwing the stone by the witness is a non-severable part of judicial procedure in a capital crime, therefore a witness who cannot do it (or the equivalent: somehow acting to cause the defendant's death), cannot be one of the two or more probative witnesses required for conviction (Deut. 19:15).
Someone might suggest that video evidence can be used to transcend the limitations of witness memory. The problem with video evidence is that it can be falsified -- this is becoming easier over time as technology improves. It will be increasingly difficult to overcome the reasonable doubt that video -- purportedly decades old -- could not have been manufactured or altered.