Manion Highlights Action on Legislative Priorities, Urges Lawmakers to Enact Bills on Hate Crimes, Catalytic Converter Thefts, Sexual Assault, & Domestic Violence

Today, King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion is highlighting some of the bills her administration has been fighting to pass this legislative session, which ends on April 23.

“From hate crimes, to sexual assault, to mental health treatment, to catalytic converter theft — lawmakers have an important opportunity this session to provide greater accountability for crimes and behaviors that negatively impact King County community members,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion. “These are just some of legislative changes that are desperately needed here in King County and across Washington State.”

Below are some of the bills the Manion Administration has advocated for and against this session.

  • SB 5070 would make changes under SB 5183 — which requires forensic nurse examiners to be provided to victims of domestic violence strangulation — permanent. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office advocated for SB 5183 last legislative session. SB 5070 has passed the Senate, and now requires legislative action in the House.
  • SB 5623 makes legislative fixes that currently prevent prosecutors from seeking accountability for some hate crimes. SB 5623 has passed the Senate, and now requires legislative action in the House.
  • SB 5274 By allowing lawful permanent residents to seek employment at Prosecuting Attorneys’ Offices, this bill would empower prosecutor’s offices to use every tool at their disposal to protect public safety and right size the criminal justice system following the devastating impacts of the COVID pandemic. SB 5274 needs approval by the Senate Rules Committee in order to receive vote in the Senate.
  • SB 5740 The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office has been leading the charge to push legislators to take action on catalytic converter thefts. The basis of this bill, which is pending action by the Senate Law & Justice Committee, was written by Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Gary Ernsdorff aims to shrink the market for selling illegally obtained catalytic converters. We’re continuing to work with legislators to prioritize and strengthen the bill.
  • HB 1439 would take steps to make evidence-based treatment available and accessible to children exposed to violence in order to address the root causes of generational cycles of violence.
  • SB 5160 would add an additional means of organized retail theft in the second degree — creating another tool in the fight against retail theft. This bill, which is supported by the Washington Retail Association, is pending a vote in the Senate. In 2022, the number of organized retail theft cases filed in King County doubled from the year before — it’s a serious problem for small and large businesses.
  • SB 5128 aims to increase the diversity of jury pools by increasing pay for certain low-income jurors and creating a childcare assistance program workgroup. SB 5128 has passed the Senate, and is pending a vote in the House.
  • SB 5440 would make problematic changes to Washington’s competency restoration process by shifting responsibility and liability (particularly for Class C felonies) for competency restoration from the Department of Social and Health Services to Washington’s counties. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office opposes SB 5440, which has passed the Senate and is pending action in the House.

Last month, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office joined state legislators and advocates from across Washington state in press conference highlighting a suite of bills aimed at enacting comprehensive protections of victims of domestic violence, reducing the risk of gun and gender-based violence, among other policies. And earlier this year, King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion announced the creation of a new division of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office focused on gender-based violence and prevention. At the time of the announcement, Manion said, “the purpose of this new division is to elevate and improve our office’s response to gender-based violence. This division will bring a trauma-informed, victim-centered response to these cases.” The division includes the Domestic Violence Unit, the Sexually Violent Predator Unit, Special Assault Units that handle sex crimes, prosecutors handling commercial sexual exploitation (trafficking), and Hate Crimes, among other practices. During that same announcement, Manion shared that she is creating a new Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division. Creating this division, which will include an Organized Retail Theft practice, is aimed at bringing greater accountability for organized retail theft and wage theft cases by working with law enforcement to develop the evidence necessary to increase the prosecution of these serious crimes.

During the last legislative session, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office advocated for the passage of SB 5183, which requires forensic nurse examiners to be provided to victims of domestic violence strangulation. A person who suffers from nonfatal strangulation is 750% more likely to become a homicide victim and these crimes can be hard to prosecute as they mostly happen behind closed doors. Because there is a need to rely on evidence and the strangulation may not leave any marks to the untrained eye, medical exams are the best way to hold abusers accountable. In 2018, in King County alone there were 323 known cases of strangulation, 64 of which were treated in the hospital and only 4 received a forensic exam because it also involved a sexual assault. This bill aims to change those numbers for the better so that every victim of domestic violence strangulation has access to a forensic nurse examiner.