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california legislation > SB 1248

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Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary
Senator Christine Kehoe, Chair


SB 1248 (Alquist) - Civil procedure: contempt.

Amended: May 1, 2012 Policy Vote: Public Safety 7-0
Urgency: No Mandate: No
Hearing Date: May 24, 2012 Consultant: Jolie Onodera

SUSPENSE FILE.


Bill Summary: SB 1248 would require a minor who is an alleged
victim of a sex crime to meet with a victim advocate, as
defined, where the minor is under 16 years of age and facing
contempt of court for refusing to testify, unless the court
finds that it is not in the best interest of the victim. This
bill would authorize the court to impose sanctions, as
specified, on any parent or guardian who the court finds is
inappropriately interfering with court processes by encouraging
a minor to refuse to testify.

Fiscal Impact: Potential costs in the range of $100,000 (General
Fund) per year to the Judicial Branch for increased evidentiary
hearings. This amount could be offset in part by fine revenues
from sanctions to the extent they are levied.

Background: This bill seeks to protect child victims of sex
crimes from being coerced into not testifying against their
abusers. It is noted that, "While many children, as crime
victims, want and need to participate as testifying witnesses,
participating in the process causes many of them significant
fear and anxiety. Researchers attribute the cause of child
witnesses' anxieties to a number of factors, including their
fear of not being believed and their fear of answering questions
in front of the person who hurt them. Facing the accused is
consistently children's top concern. If the abuser is the
parent, even the Supreme Court has surmised that the child's
feelings of vulnerability, guilt, and unwillingness to come
forward would be particularly acute." (Sacrificing the Child to
Convict the Defendant: Secondary Traumatization of Child
Witnesses by Prosecutors, Their Inherent Conflict of Interest,
and the Need for Child Witness Counsel, Tanya Asim Cooper,
Spring 2011).









SB 1248 (Alquist)
Page 1


Existing law generally provides victims of sexual assault the
right to have victim advocates and a support person of the
victim's choosing present at any interview by law enforcement
authorities, district attorneys, or defense attorneys. Existing
law defines "victim advocate" to mean a sexual assault
counselor, as defined in section 1035.2 of the Evidence Code, or
a victim advocate working in a center established under Article
2 of Chapter 4 of Title 6 of Part 4. The centers
cross-referenced in this section are public or private
non-profit entities providing assistance to victims and
witnesses.

Proposed Law: This bill would require a minor who is a victim of
a sex crime to meet with a victim advocate, as defined in Penal
Code section 679.04, where the minor is under 16 years of age
and facing contempt of court for refusing to testify, unless the
court, for good cause, finds that it is not in the best interest
of the victim.

This bill provides that if the court finds that a parent or
guardian is inappropriately interfering with court processes by
encouraging a minor under 16 years of age to refuse to testify,
the parent or guardian may be sanctioned by counseling, a fine,
or jail time. The bill specifies that nothing shall preclude
prosecution under any other applicable provision of law.

Staff Comments: The Judicial Council estimates that for cases in
which an evidentiary hearing is necessary to determine whether a
parent or guardian inappropriately interfered with a court
process be encouraging a minor not to testify would result in
increased costs of approximately $2,160 per hearing in order to
determine specific findings are required before sanctions can be
levied, the hearing is estimated to increase the court's review
time by three to four hours.

It is unknown how many cases the court will find that a parent
or guardian is inappropriately interfering with court processes.
Based on the number of offenders convicted of sex crimes against
children in California of approximately 13,000 in 2001, and
adjusting for the reduced trend in child sexual abuse cases
based on National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS),
it is estimated there could be approximately 45 cases (less than
one per county) per year statewide that could require an
evidentiary hearing. Estimated costs based on the assumptions








SB 1248 (Alquist)
Page 2


above would result in court costs of approximately $100,000
General Fund per year. To the extent the court levies sanctions
in the form a fine, a portion of costs would be offset by the
amount collected.