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March 2, 2011 at 4:42 PM

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State Senate approves enhanced penalties for crimes against the homeless

Posted by Joanna Nolasco

The state Senate Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would enhance penalties for crimes against the homeless.

Sponsored by Sen. Scott White, D-Seattle, SB 5011 would classify a victim’s homelessness as an aggravating circumstance in a crime, allowing courts to sentence defendants above the standard range if they found the offense was committed because the victim was perceived to be homeless.

Senate lawmakers voted 49-0 to pass the bill.

As a state representative last year, White proposed a similar measure concerning punishments for crimes against the homeless. The bill originally proposed to classify offenses against those who are homelessness as hate crimes, but it was amended to consider homelessness an aggravating circumstance before the legislation passed through the House. The measure failed to pass the Senate before the session ended.

Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, chairman of the House Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said he hasn’t yet reviewed in detail White’s current proposal, but said it has a good chance of passing the House if it resembles the version that was approved last year.

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