Witnesses required to talk if new law passes
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California is joining Texas Congressman Nick Lampson in introducing a “Good Samaritan” law in memory of the 7-year-old girl who was molested and murdered last year in a Las Vegas casino.
The Sherrice Iverson Act would require that states pass laws compelling witnesses of child sexual abuse to report those crimes to law enforcement. The bill doesn’t require that the new law obligate witnesses to intervene in potentially dangerous situations.
In California, there are already several professions of people who are considered mandatory reporters. For example, teachers and health care workers are required to report any signs of possible child abuse.
South Lake Tahoe Chief of Police Dave Solaro said he sees a benefit to a “Good Samaritan” law.
“Such a law could assist in an investigation. Often a witness is a family member who doesn’t come forward under the mistaken belief that it’s for the good of the family,” Solaro said. “This law might allow them to justify in their own mind the need to report it. I have no doubt that their are victims out there that we are unaware of because for one reason or another the crime is not reported.”
Lampson introduced his bill after Nevada prosecutors determined they had no basis to prosecute David Cash, Jr., a friend of assailant. Cash at least partially witnessed the assault on Iverson, but didn’t report it.
Boxer’s legislation provides penalties for states who fail to enact a “Good Samaritan” law. Those states would become ineligible for federal Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act funds if they failed to comply within five years.
“Currently, there are only two states – Minnesota and Vermont – that require citizens to report the crimes they witness,” Boxer said. “If you witness a crime as horrible as the one that befell Sherrice Iverson, you are morally obligated to at least report that crime to the authorities.”
Boxer’s bill was referred to the Senate Committee on labor and human resources on Sept. 9.
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