Rape Defendants May Face HIV Tests

Tuesday, October 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spurred by new drugs that may block HIV infection if taken quickly, the House passed a bill that would compel people charged with rape to submit to an HIV test if the accuser asks for one to be done.

The legislation passed 380-19 on Monday night, getting overwhelming support despite concerns about requiring an HIV test for defendants who are presumed to be innocent before trial. Nothing in the bill would stop the accuser from publicizing the results.

``No longer will a victim have to wait for months or years for such a test of the accused,'' said Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., who introduced the bill. ``No longer will the perpetrators of these crimes be allowed to bargain for lighter sentences in exchange for undergoing HIV testing.

``This bill puts the rights of the victim ahead of that of the sexual predator.''

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who opposed the bill, said it was rushed through without giving due regard to the innocent.

``It requires a person to be subjected to an AIDS test, even if they're innocent,'' he said. And with no controls on releasing the results, ``Before you can say, `It wasn't me,' ... it's spread across the world.''

Weldon said the rush is needed to take advantage of new drugs that can reduce chances of getting AIDS by about 80 percent if taken shortly after exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the drugs are not useful if taken days or weeks later.

``This is clearly a case of finding the greater good,'' Weldon said.

The bill would require the test to be given within 48 hours after an indictment.

The House also passed, by a 397-2 vote, a bill extending anti-pornography protections to youth aged 16 and 17.

The legislation specifies 10 years in prison and fines for anyone who knowingly gives pornography by e-mail, telephone or mail to juveniles younger than 16. The age of consent normally is considered 18.

The new bill would change the definition of a minor to someone under 18.

``We should make sure that those who would seek to spread this filth knowingly to our children be ready to pay the price of up to 10 years behind bars,'' said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who introduced the bill.

Scott and Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., voted against it.

Scott said the bill might have unforeseen consequences. ``If an 18-year-old were to have consensual sex with a 17-year-old, that would not be a federal crime nor a crime in most states,'' Scott said. ``But if they shared dirty pictures, that would be a federal crime.''

The House passed unanimously a measure making it a federal crime to use a fake police badge or identification to enter federal property such as an airport or a courthouse. It would also make it a federal crime to sell fake or real police badges, punishable by a fine and six months in prison.

This bill stems from a federal investigation this year in which officials using false police badges easily penetrated restricted areas at the FBI, the Pentagon, the CIA, the Justice Department and the State Department with briefcases large enough to carry explosives and firearms.

It also unanimously passed a bill that would give states $170 million to help clear backlogs of DNA samples in storage. It is estimated that 70 percent of forensic crime labs across the country have a backlog of DNA to be processed, said Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla.

The fate of the various crime bills is uncertain in the Senate, which takes longer to consider bills than the House. Lawmakers also are trying to get home as fast as possible to campaign for re-election.


The bill numbers are H.R. 3088, H.R. 4147, H.R. 4640 and H.R. 4827.


On the Net:

To find bill text: http://thomas.loc.gov