State lawmakers are pushing for tougher rules against stalking, an issue brought to light after the 2010 killing of a Tacoma elementary school teacher Jennifer Paulson by a man on bail for violating a harassment order she had filed against him.
Most people agreed with the intent of House Bill 1180 at a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Monday. But the family of the slain teacher said it should be harsher, lawyers argued that it could violate defendants’ rights and the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Roger Goodman, said he still has a lot of amendments in mind.
“This bill responds to a number of concerns about anti-harassment orders and the anti-harassment process that isn’t taken seriously by folks in the community, that literally the anti-harassment order isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Goodman, a Kirkland Democrat. “I’m very open to amendments here because we really want to achieve the result.”
The bill would allow courts to require people who have had harassment orders filed against them to submit to electronic monitoring to track their locations and would require police to arrest a person who violates a stalking-based anti-harassment order.
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Paulson’s parents said they supported the measure but would like to see it strengthened.
“I live every day missing my daughter; she had so much to live for and so much more to give in this world,” said Nancy Heisler, Paul-son’s mother. “Please don’t let my daughter have died in vain.”
In February 2010, 30-year-old Paulson was shot to death outside Tacoma’s Birney Elementary by a man who had been following and calling her repeatedly for several years.
The shooter, Jed Ryan Waits, had been arrested a week earlier for violating an anti-harassment protection order, charged with a misdemeanor and released on $10,000 bail. He was later killed exchanging fire with a Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy.
Ken Paulson, Jennifer’s father, said he would like to see language added to the bill that would require that someone who violated an anti-harassment order for stalking be charged with a class-c felony and mandate electronic GPS monitoring for people released on bail after violating a such an order.
“This is a serious issue is what we’re trying to say,” he said of anti-stalking laws in the state. “There’s a big hole in this area.”
Goodman proposed amendments that would require that a person charged with violating a stalking-based anti-harassment order submit to electronic monitoring for seven days and would allow the courts to mandate that someone who violates such an order participate in counseling.
Goodman also said he would be interested in extending the electronic monitoring beyond seven days based on the family’s testimony and making the language of the bill clearer to address some constitutional concerns raised by lawyers at the hearing.
Rick Bartholomew of the Washington Bar Association and Bob Cooper of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said they were concerned about the part of the bill that could allow judges to order electronic GPS monitoring for people when anti-harassment orders are filed against them rather than after they have been charged with breaking those orders.
They said doing so could violate state and federal constitutional protections such as the right to due process because anti-harassment orders are part of civil, not criminal law, and anyone can request such an order.
Goodman said he had looked at the language of similar statutes in other states and he planned to suggest some “lethality factors” such as having a history of violence or drug use that a defendant would have to meet in order for a judge to require GPS location-monitoring.
According to the bill’s fiscal note, it would cost state agencies about $148,900 and local courts about $1.8 million for the 2011-13 biennium.