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AGO 1950 No. 366 - October 10, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

STATE SCHOOLS FOR MENTAL DEFECTIVES

For reasons given, a criminal charge may not properly be filed under section 20, chapter 198, Laws of 1949, against an individual harboring an escapee from either Lakeland Village or Rainier State School.

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                                                                October 10, 1950

Honorable H. D. Van Eaton
Director Department of Public Institutions
Public Lands-Social Security Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 366

Attention:  Mr. Van R. Hinkle, Supervisor

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of October 3, 1950, in which you ask the following question:

            May a criminal charge be properly filed under section 20, chapter 198, Laws of 1949, against an individual harboring an escapee from a custodial school?

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            No such criminal charge may be properly filed under section 20, chapter 198, Laws of 1949.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 20, chapter 198, Laws of 1949 (6953-20 Rem. Supp. 1949) provides:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "Any person who procures the escape of any inmate of any mental hospital, school for mental defectives, or institutions for psychopaths to which a person is committed under any of the provisions of this act, or who advises, connives at, aids, or assists in such escape or conceals any such escape, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

            Lakeland Village had its origin in chapter 70, Laws of 1905, which established a state institution to be known as "The State Institution for Feeble‑minded."  This name eventually became Lakeland Village (section 1, chapter 157, Laws of 1947 [4656 Rem. Supp. 1947]).  Rainier State School had its origin in chapter 10, Laws of 1937 (4679-1 to 22 Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp.), which established a public institution to be known as the "Western State Custodial School," the name being thereafter changed to Rainier State School by section 2, chapter 167, Laws of 1947 (4679a Rem. Supp. 1947).  These two schools must be the schools which are referred to as "school for mental defectives" in section 20,supra.

            In construing an act, resort may be had to the title.  The title to chapter 198 reads:

            "AN ACT relating to state government; providing for the commitment, custody, detention, treatment, parole and discharge of mentally ill, inebriated and dipsomaniac persons, sexual psychopaths and psychopathic delinquent persons; prescribing the powers and duties of certain officers, and defining crimes and prescribing penalties."

            It is to be noted that the title makes no mention of any "school for mental defectives" nor does it refer to Lakeland Village or Rainier State School in any way.  The title does mention "crimes."  We have grave doubt that the mere fact that the title includes "defining crimes" and also begins "An Act relating to state government" would be sufficient to advise any reader of the title that a crime was included to which no direct or indirect reference was  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] made in the title.  That is, the crime defining escaping, etc., from a school for mental defectives is a subject which the reader of the title would not be called upon to expect to find in the body of the act.

            However, there is another and better reason for holding that section 20,supra, does not relate to any escape, etc., from a "school for mental defectives."  Leaving out the immaterial portions, section 20 provides: "Any person who procures the escape of any inmate of any * * * school for mental defectives * * *to which a person is committed under the provisions of this act, or * * *."  The act does not contain any provision for the commitment of any person to any school for mental defectives.  Nor does the title appear to be not broad enough to include the commitment of a person to either Lakeland Village or Rainier State School.  Section 20,supra, is a penal section.  It is unnecessary to cite cases on the proposition that penal statutes are strictly construed.

            Answering your question directly, we do not believe that a criminal charge may properly be filed under section 20, chapter 198, Laws of 1949 (6953-20 Rem. Supp. 1949) against an individual harboring an escapee from either Lakeland Village or Rainier State School.

            Whether you desire amendatory legislation drafted to supply this defect is a matter for your office to determine.  If you desire so to do, we will be prepared to assist you in preparing necessary legislation.  Our understanding is that chapter 198 is being given study and may be revised in its entirety. Possibly, such correction as we have discussed could be taken care of at that time.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

GEORGE DOWNER
Assistant Attorney General

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