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January 14, 1971
Honorable Marjorie W. Lynch
State Representative, 14th District
Olympia, Washington 98501
Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 5 (not official)
Dear Mrs. Lynch:
We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated January 11, 1971, requesting our advice regarding the present status of the law pertaining to the availability to the news media of the names of persons involved in criminal prosecutions for the crimes of incest or sodomy.
Presumably, from the type of situation which is described in the letter to you from a guidance counselor for the Selah school district which precipitated your inquiry, the criminal prosecution itself is against an adult offender; in other words, it is not a juvenile proceeding, as such (to which the various restrictions upon publicity contained in chapter 13.04 RCW would apply). Therefore, all matters of record in connection with the prosecution, including the names and testimony of witnesses, etc., are matters of public record subject only to such restrictions or limitations as may, constitutionally, be imposed by the court before which the case is being tried in exercise of its sound judicial discretion.
In the event that you are interested in altering this state of the law by legislation, we would have to caution you that any such legislation as would totally bar the public or news media from access to any information pertaining to an adult criminal prosecution and trial (which, particularly in the case of incest, would be about the only way of totally concealing the probable identity of the victim) would be faced with substantial constitutional obstacles. See, in particular, Article I, § 22 of our state Constitution, which guarantees to the accused in any criminal prosecution the right (among others) ". . . to have a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county in which the offense is charged to have been committed . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General