Don’t dump a body in California, even if your motive is to cover up an accidental death.
A new statute — “Erica’s Law” — extends the time for prosecution of such body dumping in the state from one year to four years.
The legislation was prompted by the dumping of the body of 27-year-old Erica Alonso in an Orange County creek bed a couple of years ago.
Her death was not a homicide, but rather due to alcohol and drug use. Nevertheless, authorities were not notified and her body was dumped in an apparent illegal cover up.
State Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, sponsored the bill, which was signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown. It covers the dumping of bodies in accidental deaths, while other laws cover murder cases.
Nguyen had sought tougher penalties for anyone who dumps a body, but the new legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, only extends the statute of limitations for such a crime.
Although the new legislation did not enhance punishment for offenders, Nguyen said at a news conference Friday that she considered it a “victory for the Alonso family, for other victims and their families and for the state of California… It’s been over two years since we lost Erica but her legacy lives on through this legislation.
“Erica’s Law honors her life, and provides future victims a greater opportunity for justice.”
The law allows for charges to be filed for the concealment of an accidental death up to one year after a suspect is identified by law enforcement, but extends the statute of limitations to four years after the dumping of the body.
The law “will provide investigators with additional ability to pursue and charge individuals who commit the crime of concealing a body due to an accidental death,” Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said.
“Extending the consequence for this crime will hopefully discourage individuals from failing to be forthcoming with law enforcement.”
Alonso was last seen leaving her boyfriend’s home in Irvine about 3:45 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2015. Authorities located her 2014 Honda Civic EX near Cedarbrook and Redwood in the Glenwood Park neighborhood of Aliso Viejo on March 25 of that year.
Orange County sheriff’s investigators concluded it was not a homicide.
Alonso had a lethal dose of alcohol and the drug GHB in her system, according to an autopsy that showed her blood-alcohol level was .22, nearly three times the legal limit for driving.
— Staff and wire reports