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After signing H. 4364, An Act relative to the preservation of evidence for victims of rape and sexual assault, Governor Baker handed the pen he used to Amanda Nguyen. Nguyen is the president and founder of Rise, an organization that advocates for the rights of sexual assault survivors like herself. She has led the efforts locally and nationally to bring regulations surrounding rape kits and other forensic evidence in line with the fifteen-year statute of limitations for sexual assault and rape.

“A survivor of sexual assault or rape should not be burdened with a short timeframe and constant reminders from our criminal justice system, and I am pleased this new law will allow survivors to focus on healing,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Extending the retention period for evidence to match the statute of limitations is a commonsense change that will help survivors seek justice when they are ready to pursue a criminal justice response.”

At the signing ceremony and press conference led by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, members of the Baker-Polito Administration, legislators, members of the non-profit organization RISE and advocates celebrated passage of this legislation and progress for survivors of sexual assault and rape who have faced significant challenges and trauma from the burdens of the prior policies of our criminal justice system.

DSC_0075“Removing the burden from the victim to keep evidence from being destroyed is a very important step for our criminal justice system, and most of all, for the well-being of survivors of sexual assault and rape,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Chair of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. “We want to thank our colleagues in the legislature for collaborating on this legislation because preserving this type of evidence could make all the difference in convicting defendants on trial for sexual assault or rape.”

The new law requires governmental entities, such as local police departments, to retain forensic evidence obtained through the investigation of a sexual assault or rape for a minimum of fifteen years, which is the statute of limitations for crimes of sexual assault and rape. Previously, such evidence was only required to be retained for a period of six months unless victims petitioned every six months to have it preserved.

“Today represents justice,” said Amanda Nguyen to 22News, “not only for me, but for the hundreds of thousands of rape survivors in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Additional elements of the new law:

  • Requires hospitals to inform survivors that sexual assault testing kits will be retained for a minimum of fifteen years;
  • Stipulates that any evidence currently in the possession of a police department or other governmental entity be retained for the remainder of the statute of limitations for each case; and
  • To ensure that forensic evidence is properly preserved, requires the State Police Crime Laboratory to promulgate regulations regarding minimum standards for evidence retention and chain-of-custody protocol.

Rise has already passed a federal Sexual Assault Bill of Rights, which was signed into law by the President on October 7, 2016 and introduced legislation in California, Oregon and New York.

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