Thursday, March 28, 2002
Council Supports Longer Statute of Limitations for Child Annoyance
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The City Council yesterday voiced its support for a state Assembly bill that would extend the time prosecutors have to bring charges in misdemeanor child molestation cases to up to three years.
Under current law, when a defendant is accused of “annoying or molesting a child,” prosecution must be commenced within one year of when the offense was committed, or two years if the victim was under 14 at the time.
But AB 2499, authored by Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Glendale, would extend that to three years for all misdemeanor offenses, regardless the age of the minor victim.
“Child sexual abuse is America’s dark, shameful secret,” Frommer said in a statement. “This bill will shine the light of justice on this dark corner of society by closing loopholes that allow perpetrators to escape prosecution.”
The bill, known as the Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Assault Victim Protection Act, was introduced by Frommer March 15 in response to the revelations of child molestation involving clergy of the Catholic Church and the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old Danielle Van Dam.
There are approximately 330,000 reports of child abuse in the United States each year and in Los Angeles County alone more than 14,000 children who are the victims of sexual abuse are referred to the Department of Children and Family Services annually.
AB 2499 is being sponsored by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who along with Frommer and City Councilman Eric Garcetti announced the bill earlier this month.
In addition to giving prosecutors more time to bring charges against suspected child molesters, the bill would modify the requirement that prior acts of sexual abuse by a defendant be disclosed to the defense at least 30 days before trial. AB 2499 would allow prosecutors to use evidence of past abuse discovered less than 30 days before trial if they notify the defense immediately.
The bill would also limit the right to automatic bail on appeal for defendants convicted of certain misdemeanors relating to stalking, domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse; and would require all local and state law enforcement would be required to keep all records involving the investigation of sexual abuse of a minor or domestic violence for at least 10 years.
Current law allows a defendant’s other similar crimes to be admissible in court for up to 10 years for domestic violence, and sexual abuse for up to 20 years. But because there is no requirement that these records be retained for a specified period of time, police reports may not be available to prosecutors.
Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Dan Scott of the Family Crimes Bureaus said the department keeps sexual abuse records, like those involving homicides, forever. Last year alone, the Sheriff’s Department investigated 3,300 cases of child abuse involving 4,100 victims.
“We’re not destroying anything,” he said. “We want to keep this evidence around.”
Scott said bills like Frommer’s can only help bring more child molesters to justice by allowing more time to bring charges.
“It’s very important that we have bills like this and that we have the support of the Legislature because we can’t do it alone,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Department is supporting AB 2499.
The bill will be heard before the Assembly Public Safety Committee April 2.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company