By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — Time would not be a barrier for sexual assault victims to seek justice under a bill that the House said Wednesday needs more study.
The House upheld a committee recommendation to study the statute of limitations for sex crimes on a 200-123 vote after an emotional debate over eliminating the statute of limitations.
The prime sponsor of House Bill 1586, Rep. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, said New Hampshire has some of the most restrictive statute of limitations in the country giving victims of child sexual abuse only until they reach age 40 to report the crime, and six years for adult sexual assault.
“All the survivors said the statutes of limitation in New Hampshire benefit
the perpetrators,” Altschiller said. “Why is the burden shouldered by the
victim so (the perpetrator) can have a get-out-of-jail-free card?”
She told of sexual abuse victims who testified before the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee last week, and asked why should the court house doors be closed to them simply because of the passage of time.
“A victim coming forward takes more courage than anyone should have to
muster,” Altschiller said. “Nothing can make up for what they went through and
the scars they still carry.”
But those supporting interim study said the bill goes too far in eliminating all statutes of limitations, although the times need to be extended.
Putting limits on prosecution is not new, said Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield, noting statutes of limitations date back hundreds of years.
He quoted English Judge William Blackstone in the 1700s and what is now
known as the Blackstone ratio: “It is better 10 guilty men go free than one
innocent person suffer.”
With no limitations, Roy said, “the mighty power of the state can reach back in perpetuity and charge you with a crime.”
He could not remember where he was six years ago on a certain afternoon much less 20 or 30 or 40 years ago.
The longer the time passes, the more you are likely to put innocent people in jail, he said.
“We have one of the best justice systems in the world,” Roy said. “We need to take our time and think about something like this.”
The chair of the Criminal Justice Committee Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said the committee believes the statutes of limitations for sexual assaults are too short.
“We recognize that and are prepared to work to address that,” Cushing
said. “The 18-2 vote is our commitment to secure justice.”
The House voted 200-123 to send the bill to interim study.
The Senate is also working on a bill to extend the time limits for sexual crimes.
By five slim votes, the House approved a bill that would limit the bullets in gun magazines to 15 for a handgun and 10 for a long rifle.
House Bill 1608 would prohibit the manufacture, sale, transfer, and possession of large capacity ammunition devices, but would allow anyone with a device to keep it, but could not sell, trade or replace it.
Opponents called it yet another in a series of anti-gun bills that seek to limit rights under the Second Amendment.
“If 15 rounds for a pistol and 10 for a long gun can successfully defend
against tyranny,” said Rep. Werner Horn, R-Franklin, “I would vote for this
because that is what the Second Amendment is all about.”
But supporters of the large capacity ban, said they make deadly weapons even deadlier and were used in all of the mass shootings, in Newtown, Orlando, Parkland and Las Vegas.
“At one time any magazine over 10 rounds was banned,” said Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, “but when it expired in 2004, manufacturers were quick to respond.”
Manufacturers now use 30 bullets as the standard while some of the magazines hold up to 100 rounds.
The toll is heartbreaking and devastating, he said, noting that nine states and Washington, D.C., have similar restrictions on magazine size and the change is generally working by reducing fatalities and injuries.
Only Democrats voted in favor of banning large capacity magazines. The bill now goes to the Senate.
The House voted to:
Cap the co-payment for insulin at $100 a month. Supporters said some people reduce their insulin use to save money resulting in far greater costs in the future, while opponents said the state cannot continue to pile more and more requirements on health insurers before premiums are unaffordable.
Allow unwed couples to adopt children.
Ban polystyrene foam containers.
Require retailers using one-time plastic bags to recycle them.
Allow longterm antibiotic therapies for tick-induced illnesses.
Allow dogs in open air restaurants.
Make it a felony to seriously injure an animal.
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org