New Jersey’s Attorney General has ordered law enforcement and county prosecutors to retain sexual assault evidence for a substantially longer period of time.
Sexual assault evidence in New Jersey was held for 90 days, but the new edict says that forensic evidence obtained from rape victims will be kept for at least five years. Acting Attorney General John Hoffman stated that the change in policy was designed to give victims more time to decide whether they want to participate in criminal investigations or prosecutions.
Sexual assault victims rights groups lauded the decision. Patricia Teffenhart, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said, “Ninety days does not give survivors an opportunity to process what has happened to them. This [extension] gives survivors a chance to work through the healing process.”
The president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey agreed that the extension was a good thing for victims as well as those accused of sexual assault.
“That evidence may also be used to exculpate a defendant in a particular case,” he said. “By not being destroyed, the evidence can benefit both parties.”
Under the new directive, evidence collected from minors will be held for at least five years after they turn 18. Also, victims will have a choice as to whether they want to be informed when the five-year period is set to expire. The evidence will not be disposed of unless the victim specifically states that he or she is not interested in participating in prosecution.
If county prosecutors choose, they can retain the evidence indefinitely. While some county prosecutors already do this, Hoffman stated the new directive ensures statewide consistency. Currently, there is no national standard for the retention of sexual assault evidence; retention times are dictated by each state.
If you have been accused of a sexual crime, it is essential that you seek the services of a knowledgeable and tenacious law firm that is dedicated to protecting your legal rights. Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo in New Jersey will fight to assure that you get the best possible outcome in your case. Call us toll-free at (888) 847-2529 or contact us online today for a free consultation.