Washington state didn’t just toughen its distracted driving laws

Jul 24, 2017, 7:54 AM | Updated: 7:59 am

washington laws, distracted driving...

Rep. Drew Hansen sponsored legislation that protects domestic violence survivors. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington state is cracking down on more than just distracted driving.

From tougher DUI laws and marijuana sign regulations, to attempts to illegally buy guns, many of the new laws now in effect are about protecting people.

That includes a new law that better protects survivors of sexual assault by doing away with a two-year cap on civil sexual assault protection orders.

Under the old law, sexual assault survivors had to go back to court every two years and prove their attacker was still a threat in order to renew the protection order. Now that burden will be on the offender — allowing the judge to renew the order unless the offender can prove they’re no longer a threat.

That brings sexual assault protection orders in line with protection orders in domestic violence, stalking, and harassment cases. It is a win for victims, according to Mary Ellen Stone with the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.

“We hear often from victims about, one, how hard it is to go forward and get a protection order, and then how daunting it is to think, ‘I have to go back in another two years if I want to keep this in place.'”

Under the new law, judges will have the ability to make these protection orders permanent. Stone says this can be a tremendous help for victims overwhelmed by the process of having to come back to court every couple of years and relive their nightmare.

“I can think of a young woman who testified on this bill who was assaulted as a child. She went and got a protection order when the offender moved back into her area and was very concerned about having to go back in two years. It was a big stress on her and her family…”

Another law aimed at protecting victims cracks down on criminals who try to buy guns. Thousands of people prohibited to purchase firearms try to do so at gun shops every year in our state. They fail the background checks and are turned away. It’s a crime that has gone unpunished. Now, law enforcement will track those attempted buys and refer cases to prosecutors.

State Rep. Drew Hansen who sponsored the legislation says one of the most important parts of the law is that domestic violence survivors will be notified right away if their abuser is trying to buy a gun.

“What a risk that is,” he said. “If you are a survivor of domestic violence and your abuser tries to purchase a firearm illegally, that is a massively valuable piece of information for you. Because it helps you safety plan.”

There’s also a tough new DUI law in effect now that makes a DUI a felony on the fourth offense, rather than the fifth, within a 10-year time frame.

Senator Mike Padden pushed for years to get the change and says now that it’s here it will save lives.

“Because we know the people most likely to have vehicular homicides are repeat offenders,” he said. “If some of those repeat offenders are off the roads we are going to reduce the number of vehicular homicides.”

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Washington state didn’t just toughen its distracted driving laws