The state Senate Safety Committee unanimously approved legislation today that could make it a crime for a witness to fail to report sexual and violent crimes committed against minors, according to Sen. Leland Yee’s office.
The bill, Senate Bill 840, was introduced by Yee, D-San Francisco, in response to the Oct. 24 gang rape of a 16-year-old girl outside Richmond High School’s homecoming dance.
Richmond police said the girl was robbed, beaten and repeatedly raped for two and a half hours by as many as 10 people while as many as a dozen others stood by and watched.
Seven people have since been arrested and charged with the rape, but because the victim was over 14, prosecutors were not able to charge the people who allegedly witnessed the attack but failed to report it.
A 1999 state law makes it a misdemeanor for witnesses to fail to report a rape, murder or lewd and lascivious act against a child under 14. Failure to do so is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,500.
SB 840 would change the age limit in the current law from 14 to 18.
A similar bill authored by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, passed 61 to 3 in the state Assembly in January, according to Nava’s office.
Nava’s bill would require witnesses to report certain violent crimes to law enforcement regardless of the victim’s age.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the California Public Defenders Association both oppose that bill.
SB 840 will now be considered by the Appropriations Committee before it goes to a vote of the full Senate, according to Yee’s office.