New Kansas law cracks down on sexual extortion, spousal abuse, fleeing police

By: - July 16, 2021 10:59 am

During a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 60, Gov. Laura Kelly and several others called the reform package a step toward bringing Kansas criminal code into the 21st century. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas lawmakers and legal leaders are praising a new law that creates the crime of sexual extortion and removes a spousal exemption to sexual battery.

Senate Bill 60, which went into effect July 1, bundles several criminal justice and law enforcement actions. The law amends when a person can be tried in Kansas, prohibits a court from ordering a victim of a crime to undergo a psychological evaluation, and amends law for those fleeing from a police officer, in addition to the extortion and battery provisions.

Legislation like this should serve as a reminder to lawmakers that review of past laws and their merit in the present day is critical, said Gov. Laura Kelly. She pointed to the loophole previously in law that prevented spouses from being charged with sexual battery.

“No matter what the original authors of this statute might have thought at the time, marriage should never have been used to inflict harm on a partner,” Kelly said. “Thankfully, we can say time’s up for the spousal exception to sexual battery.”

Kelly was joined by fellow legislators, law enforcement and legal authorities at the Capitol in Topeka for a ceremonial signing of the bill Thursday. Those in attendance praised the measure for bringing Kansas criminal code into the 21st century.

The law passed the House 118 to 3 before clearing the Senate unanimously in early May. Kelly officially approved the bill weeks later.

Todd Thompson, of the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, called the removal of the misogynistic law allowing the order of psychiatric exams a long-overdue move that took significant steps in protecting victims.

“Can you imagine being a victim — particularly a child — to have the courage to come forward and admit what happened to them and when they come forward, they’re forced to have a psychological evaluation?” Thompson said. “Not the perpetrator, not a suspect, but them.”

Amendments to the law surrounding those attempting to elude police officers stood out most to Andy Dean, of the Kansas Highway Patrol. Among the most common reasons for a car chase is possession of a stolen motor vehicle, a crime which Dean said has risen by around 300% in the past 10 years.

Last year, approximately 70 pursuits initiated by the Kansas Highway Patrol were because someone was recklessly operating a stolen car. Dean said SB60 would reduce that number going forward.

“I’m sure that many of us in this room have known someone who has been seriously injured or killed in a car crash,” Dean said. “When a suspect drives into an opposing lane, they’re essentially steering a 4,000-pound bullet into the direction of the motoring public, including all of our families, and they need to know that there will be serious consequences for these senseless actions.”

Sen. Gene Suellentrop, the former Republican majority leader, was arrested in March after drunkenly fleeing a Kansas Highway Patrol officer while driving the wrong way on Interstate 70 in Topeka.

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.

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