WNPA Olympia News Bureau
There will be no statute of limitations in Washington state for most sex crimes against minors and longer statutes of limitations for rape under legislation signed April 19 by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The statute of limitations is the length of time after a crime is committed that legal action or prosecution can be taken.
The new law is the culmination of five years of work by Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, who has proposed variations of the legislation over his three terms in the state Legislature. Griffey worked with prosecuting attorneys and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, along with fellow legislators, to come to a compromise bill.
This issue is personal to Griffey, who has tearfully shared the stories of his wife and daughter, both of whom have been sexually assaulted. Griffey’s wife, Dinah Griffey, testified this year sharing her perspective, both as a victim and as the mother of a victim.
Griffey said he “is still claiming victory” even if his name is not attached to the law.
“We need to elevate the way we deal with this to the level of pain the survivors are feeling,” Griffey said, citing studies that the trauma experienced by sexual assault survivors is only second to murder.
During the House floor debate, Griffey encouraged his colleagues to support the policy he has fought for.
“I urge a unanimous vote on this bill because sexual assault survivors deserve it,” he said.
The final bill that changed the law was not sponsored by Griffey, but many legislators have acknowledged his hand in this policy change.
“This is a session where we are standing up for survivors,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines.
Orwall said on the floor that she would never forget Dina Griffey’s testimony and praised legislator’s work on the issue.
“It really lines up the science of how people experience trauma and process trauma that they have experienced with our legal system,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond.
Dhingra is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 5649 and is the vice chairwoman of the Law and Justice Committee.
The legislation also changes the burden of proof for consent to the defendant for the charge of third-degree rape. Previously, the victim had to prove they had not consented.
“We are removing that burden to really send the message that rape is not the victim’s’ fault,” Dhingra said.
For rape in the first or second degree and indecent liberties, the statute will be 20 years from the commission of the crime. Previously, the statute was 10 years if the crime was reported within a year of commission. The statute of limitations for all other sex crimes was three years. Rape in the third degree will now be 10 years. Incest will become 10 years from the date the crime was committed or up to the victim’s 30th birthday if the victim was under 18 when the crime was committed.
The legislation unanimously passed the Senate on Feb. 20 and the House, 94-1, on April 10.
Rep. Sharon Santos, D-Seattle, was the only legislator to oppose the bill. Santos said elevating these issues to the same crimes that involve loss of life, and the lack of nuance in dealing with child offenders, were her reasons for opposing the bill.
This change does not impact cases in which the statute of limitations has already expired. It goes into effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session. The 2019 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 28.