A proposed measure that would eliminate the statute of limitations on prosecuting child rape has unanimously passed the House but won't get a hearing in a Senate committee.
Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, told the Daily World of Aberdeen that he doesn't plan to allow public testimony on House Bill 1657, which would effectively kill the bill. Hargrove can decide which bills will be heard or not heard as chairman of the human services and corrections committee. The measure must pass out of his committee to get a full vote before the Senate.
"Concerns have been expressed about this bill. And it's my job to listen to them," he told the newspaper Saturday, noting he made his decision after talking to prosecutors and law enforcement.
The proposed measure allows rape of a victim under the age of 18 to be prosecuted any time. The current law says if a victim is under 14 and the rape is reported within one year, the statute of limitations runs until that victim turns 28.
The current law is inadequate, said Virginia Graham, a Spokane resident who said she was raped as a child. Proponents say the proposal would deter pedophiles from committing crimes.
"One person is standing in the way and saying 'no,' which means the people's voice is not being heard," Graham said. She described the lasting pain of being raped, saying "it's a life sentence we're given as children."
The Associated Press does not normally identify victims of sexual assault, but Graham has made her name known while speaking publically in support of the bill.
The state Sentencing Guidelines Commission chose not to eliminate the statute of limitations when it reviewed the issue a few years ago, the newspaper reported. The board recommended extending the limitations to the age of 28 years old, a change that was adopted.
The state allows charges to be filed at any time if new DNA evidence is found, Hargrove said. If there isn't DNA evidence, he added, these crimes are difficult to prove. Hargrove said it comes down to the issue of prioritization for law enforcement and prosecutors.
"Prosecutors must make choices on what they're going to file and if the evidence is there," Hargrove said, adding that "we need to try to focus our resources to provide public protection as we can and not go off on wild goose chases."