Domestic violence offender registry could improve safety in Washington state

Effort is to give the public access to a domestic violence offender registry as lawmakers push bill to hold domestic violence offenders accountable

  • Thursday, February 7, 2019 1:30am
  • News

By Madeline Coats

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Two lawmakers have proposed a bill to create a state domestic violence offender registry to save lives.

Tina Stewart, 30, was beaten to death by her boyfriend on Nov. 24, 2017, at her home in Newman Lake. The police report indicates that she had been kicked and punched repeatedly over her body, as depicted from bruising on Stewart’s face, chest and stomach, explained her uncle, Don Estes.

“I read the autopsy report,” Estes said, in a testimony about his niece. “It was horrific.”

House Bill 1080 is co-sponsored by Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, and Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan. The bill requires the Washington State Patrol to maintain a central registry of serious domestic violence offenders and create a searchable, public registry website.

“As a law enforcement officer with over 25 years of experience, unfortunately I’ve seen similar instances over and over again,” Klippert said in reference to the murder of Tina Stuart.

RCW 25.50.010 defines domestic violence as the physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or infliction of fear between family or household members.

Many severe crimes involve intimate partner and family violence, says the bill. Wide-ranging effects of domestic violence include injury to mental and physical health, economic and housing instability and victimization of children.

HB 1080 indicates Washington state data demonstrates a high rate of re-offense among domestic violence perpetrators. Aside from criminal background checks or court record requests, there is currently no way of knowing about a person’s offense history.

“It’s not punitive in any way, shape or form,” Klippert said. “It’s just informative.”

The bill would allow access to a tool for increased protection, he explained at the hearing. While there is information online for nearly all court cases in the state, both criminal and civil, a registry would create ease for the citizens of Washington, Klippert said.

The Washington State Patrol is the central repository for criminal history record information, submitted by law enforcement agencies and courts throughout the state. The patrol also maintains public information on registered sex and kidnapping offenders.

The proposed bill would require the state patrol registry website include the offender’s name, date of birth, information about each domestic violence conviction, current address by hundred block, photograph and any other identifying data.

Tamaso Johnson from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence testified with concerns about privacy, should the bill pass.

“Privacy is so intimately linked to safety,” Johnson said. It is very difficult to publicly publish information about domestic violence offenders without also identifying the victims, he explained.

“The last thing we want to see is laws that are intended to protect people unintentionally cause harm,” Johnson said.

The purpose of the registry is to prevent domestic violence before it happens by allowing citizens access to a list of offenders. The issue of protecting victims from previous abusers needs to be addressed, he said.

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