Willhite Files Bill To Expand Child Protections

State Rep. Matt Willhite (D-Wellington) has filed HB 375 to expand exceptions for the privilege in husband-wife communications during certain criminal proceedings involving child victims. Currently, the Florida Statutes have exceptions to this privilege for a crime committed against a child of either spouse. However, there is no exception for a crime committed against other young family members.

“The exceptions proposed in this legislation do not erode the husband-wife privilege,” Willhite said. “We are merely acknowledging the arbitrary nature of limiting the exception to only crimes committed against a child of one of the spouses and not any other child. Is a grandchild, niece or nephew, for example, any less worthy of help?”

The inspiration for this legislation comes from the Office of the State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County, where a defendant admitted to his wife that he was sexually abusing their granddaughter. During court proceedings, the defense invoked the husband-wife privilege.

“Florida’s grandchildren are entitled to the same protection from sex abuse as Florida’s children,” State Attorney Dave Aronberg said. “This important measure closes a loophole in the law and will allow prosecutors and law enforcement to hold accountable those who exploit the most vulnerable amongst us.”