Lawmakers could remove the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes

By Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

The house public safety committee heard public testimony on January 22 on two bills that address the statute of limitations in certain felony sex offenses as well as another bill that would establish best practices for storing and processing of sexual assault kits.

Both bills are sponsored by Mason County District 35 Representative Dan Griffey (R-Allyn), who has worked to get the statute of limitation changed for sex offences.

House Bill 1231 would add child molestation in the first degree and rape of a child in the first degree to the list of offenses that do not have a statute of limitations. HB 1234 would add rape in the first, second and third degree to the list of sex offenses with no statute of limitations, among other sex offenses.

Griffey’s goal is to get the broad changes made that are outlined in the second bill; however, Griffey testified that both bills are written to allow for amendments that extend the statute of limitations on a variety of sex offenses. The house has passed similar legislation in the past but the senate has not.

“When you talk to some of the survivors, they really believe that the person that existed before the offense doesn’t exist any longer,” said Griffey, who told both his wife and daughter’s sexual assault stories at the hearing.

The committee also heard testimony on HB 1166 sponsored by King County District 33 Representative Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) on supporting sexual assault survivors. This bill is the product of the joint legislative task force on sexual assault forensic examination best practices.

If passed into law, HB 1166 calls for a yearlong moratorium on the destruction of unreported sexual assault kits, which refers to physical evidence collected from victims when the victim has not yet reported a crime to law enforcement. The task force plans to work on where the kits will be stored in the future and the process in which they will be handled, during the moratorium. The storage issue is the reason that the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs are in opposition of the bill.

The bill would create timelines for the submission and processing of sexual assault kits. It establishes a 45-day standard for the processing of kits collected in the future.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office testified in favor of extending the statute of limitations from one year to two years following the identification of a suspect through DNA testing or photograph. HB 1166 also creates a victim, witness and survivor bill of rights and extends the SAFE Task Force until December 2021.

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